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With: Taye Diggs, Nia Long, Morris Chestnut, Harold Perrineau, Terrence Howard, Sanaa Lathan, Monica Calhoun, Melissa De Sousa, Victoria Dillard, Regina Hall, Jim Moody, Jarrod Bunch, Stu 'Large' Riley
Written by: Malcolm D. Lee
Directed by: Malcolm D. Lee
MPAA Rating: R for language and sexuality
Running Time: 120
Date: 09/02/1999

The Best Man (1999)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Don't Have a Vow

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Taye Diggs survived his own wedding earlier this year in Rick Famuyiwa's The Wood, and now must survive another catastrophic wedding, this time as best man, in the new comedy The Best Man, written and directed by Malcolm Lee (Spike's cousin). Malcolm was an assistant director for his famous cousin on such films as Clockers (1995) and Girl 6 (1996). Sadly, not much of Spike's visual flair rubbed off on Malcolm, whose first solo effort is often flat and dull looking.

Still, I admired The Best Man for its wonderful acting ensemble, its rich characters, and the fact that it's trying to be something more than the latest Gangsta caper or Booty Call (1997). In this movie Diggs plays Harper, a successful and published author whose first book is all about his experiences with his friends. As he gets invited back home for his friend Lance's (Morris Chestnut's, who debuted in Boyz N' The Hood, 1991) wedding, the book hasn't been published yet. So Harper thinks that no one has read it. Unfortunately, Jordan (Nia Long also in this year's Stigmata) has become a TV journalist and has obtained an advance copy that she isn't shy about sharing. So, it's not long before the dam breaks. The rest of the strong cast of old friends includes Harold Perineau (most recently seen in The Edge), Terrence Howard (Dead Presidents), Sanaa Lathan (The Wood, Blade), Melissa DeSousa (Ride), and Monica Calhoun (The Players Club) as the bride to be.

The screenplay is not bad for a first-timer, but it does make a few amateur mistakes here and there, employing staid camerawork and expositional dialogue rather than playing with the medium. Lee's camera insists on filming all of these interesting characters in dull locations, almost all medium shots and interiors, making it look as static as a TV sitcom. One scene though comes across as inspired, a card game with the four old buddies: Diggs, Chestnut, Harold Perrineau, and Terrence Howard. The camera swirls around them as their conversation gets deeper and more wounding. The Best Man is a decent character driven effort and a light night out at the movies.

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