The "Best Man Holiday" arrives in theaters on Friday (November 15) as something of an event. Yes, the sequel to the hit 1999 rom-com reunites a beloved cast, but the anticipation reflected in pre-sale ticket orders feels like more than mere nostalgia.
To follow the reasoning, it's worth looking back on the controversy that erupted earlier this year after director Tyler Perry served his married, philandering character the most bitter dessert in the drama "Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor."
Here's a confession: I'm not among the ticket-buying faithful who've made Perry so successful he can spend his coins buying Bentleys for Oprah and her bestie, Gayle King. Still, it was nearly impossible to escape the outcry this past spring as magazines articles and blog posts calling out the filmmaker for treating his African-American female characters with special contempt racked up likes and shares.
Maybe moviegoers wouldn't have taken such notice, though, if Fandango's "buy tickets" section regularly had more to offer than the prolific director's succession of installments of "Why Did I Get Married?" and "Madea," for which Perry transforms into the titular troublemaking grandmother with the help of a grey wig and orthopedic shoes. While Perry clearly has his appeal, so dominant is he at the multiplex, that the release of the smash 2012 rom-com "Think Like a Man," with its predominantly black cast, was at first widely (and wrongly) assumed to be his work. Were there any other black filmmakers getting movies made?
But it wasn't always this way. In the late-1990s and early-aughts, the cinematic landscape was dotted with choices that were varied, smart and targeted toward black moviegoers — but accessible to all: a successful career woman is thrown when her time-tested relationship tricks backfire on her attorney boyfriend ("Two Can Play That Game"); a poet and photographer who frequent Chicago's spoken-word scene fall in and out of love ("Love Jones"); two childhood friends working in the hip-hop industry strike up a romance ("Brown Sugar") and; a novelist arrives at his pro-athlete friend's wedding looking for one last chance to see if a never-was girlfriend is the one that got away ("The Best Man").
Bill Clinton was in the White House, the Internet bubble was seemingly making millionaires of every college grad who could spell "dot-com" and Napster was a novel (if illegal) way to share MP3s with your friends. Into that world, Malcolm D. Lee (cousin of Spike) sent his cast of thriving, young black professionals, and they were as attractive as they were flawed and funny. Reuniting them 15 years later feels necessary.
"Those characters felt like adults, so it wasn't like slipping back to play a 20something-year-old. I felt like these characters were evolved people and they were 15 years later and ... I felt that, and that's why I resonated with what so many of them were going through," Regina Hall told MTV News of reprising her role as Candy, a former stripper now married to the buttoned-up head of a private school.
Morris Chestnut, who steps into his cleats again as football pro Lance, shared the moment he knew it was time for a sequel. "When Malcolm came and pitched it to us, he told us the storylines. I was like, 'OK, that sounds interesting,' " the actor recalled. "But ... once I read it in the script, I was like, 'Wow, this can really be something special.' "
For castmates Nia Long, Taye Diggs and Sanaa Lathan, the timing couldn't be better. "That's what's so great about catching up 15 years later as opposed to five years later because our audience has actually grown with us," said Long, whose media exec Jordan appears to have moved on from her dalliance with Diggs' novelist. "Hopefully, they'll appreciate the story, and go, 'Yay, I thought that was gonna happen!' "
A writer for New York magazine's Vulture blog had a nagging question earlier this month: Where Are the Serious Movies About Non-Suffering Black People? she wanted to know. In a year that saw challenging like films like "Fruitvale Station" and "12 Years a Slave" (rightfully) join the Oscar conversation, it was a fair question.
And while the "Best Man" follow-up won't answer that query, it's a welcome relief. Bring on the rom-coms.