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Best Man Holiday Reviewers Just Don’t Understand

Shocked reviewers who gave the ‘The Best Man Holiday‘ less than stellar marks can’t doubt the incredible results for Malcolm Lee’s long-awaited sequel.   Forbes posted results: ‘Best Man Holiday’ steals Thor’s Thunder. The LA Times said that it’s a “Holiday for the Best Man.” Mikael Wood reported the news that the movie knocked a mega money blockbuster right off the Friday night #1 spot.

According to estimates, director Malcolm D. Lee’s Christmas-themed sequel to 1999’s “The Best Man” earned $10.7 million on its first day in theaters, while “Thor” thundered up $10.4 million heading into its second weekend. …”Holiday” opened on 2,800 screens Friday, compared to the 9,700 showing “The Dark World.” L.A. Times, Nov. 16

The numbers were clear in plain dollar-sign English. Did the reviewers understand who these characters/people were?

The ‘Best Man Holiday‘ felt more like a family reunion or homecoming weekend than a film. A full generation of Black folk nearing middle age have probably no fewer than two copies of the film (one of VHS, then the DVD) and watched them almost as one would a home movie. Audiences don’t get to see these folks in black often enough – the smart, witty characters who work hard, code switch, dream, and try-fail-try again. When word hit the street that Quentin and Shelby were coming back, folks anticipated the film for months and headed to theaters in droves.

So what did the reviewers miss?

After first giving a smirk and a side eye to CNN’s EW.com Owen Gleiberman’s review, digging deeper seemed in order. The grade itself wasn’t at issue. Instead it was the cursory, almost dismissive, discussion of the film. Comparing Gleiberman’s Holiday review to his breakdown of another sequel, Hangover II, shed light on why the review rang hollow. The length of the articles –  5 paragraphs to 1 – were the first sign that there wasn’t the same connection for Gleiberman. He understood and recognized the guys in Hangover, breaking down the plot and specific story lines. He reminded us of why the original film was such a hit and used it as a base for a full review.

That didn’t happen with Holiday. Instead of a review of the actual film, there’s some basic film history, the requisite mention of Tyler Perry’s success and the funny Terrance Howard quote. That’s about it. Finally in the last few lines there’s a hint of the plot without real discussion of details. Gleiberman sums it up with one sentence: ” too many life crises rooted in too much recycled backstory.”

But that’s just it. African-Americans don’t often get to see themselves in those fact of life stories so it doesn’t feel like recycling. There isn’t a new film each year about black men and women facing the crises that hit everyday folks and with ordinary Suze Orman-like can I afford it questions. When characters that audiences connect with return to them, dealing with the same grown up issues confronting their friends and families, nuance and structure take a back seat. This isn’t to say that reviewers shouldn’t hold up the film up to strict scrutiny. Instead, it’s a suggestion that knowing Morris Chestnut’s Lance as well as Gleiberman does  Bradley Cooper’s Phil may add something to the review.

Without insight or deeper discussion, reviewers may miss subtle cultural references that the Black audience rarely sees depicted on screen. Women who want Jordan to find life balance choose to ignore cinematic faults the same way one would miss visible age markers on friends you only see every 5-10 years at college reunions. The missteps don’t matter as much because they’ve missed that feeling for so long.

Maybe a ‘Best Man III‘ will get a bigger budget and enhance the script or expound on the lives of the characters even more. But no one’s waiting for that. The audiences are happy right now, heading home singing New Edition or Donny Hathaway and plotting on when they will see it again.

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4 comments on “Best Man Holiday Reviewers Just Don’t Understand

  1. Jen
    11/17/2013

    Mia,

    Great observation! Similar situation with the reviews for Harlem Nights. Reviewers need more research on Black writers, maybe then it might make more sense to them.

    • doromarketing
      11/18/2013

      You want folks to read, too? You might be asking too much now.

  2. Single On Purpose
    11/18/2013

    When will White America get over themselves? They try to fill every roll with Caucasian actors (regardless if the role calls for another race). I understand they want to perpetuate images that make them feel empowered and influence the subconscious of the masses but that’s just not real any more. Hello? Most of us (Americans) are educated/exposed. WE KNOW the majority on welfare are Caucasian, we know most of the serial killers on the news…well, they’re from your clan. Finally, I understand you want to keep the money in your family and friends circle. Not the multicultural friends of the outer court but the private all white inner court. Oh, Im wrong about that? Well, your movies confirm my suspicions. Guess what? America at large is telling you that there are other races here BESIDES YOU and we like to SEE OUR SELVES TOO….IN A POSITIVE LIGHT. I had to say that before some radical ignorant comes and say, “what about The Maid” or “The Butler” or “12 years a slave”. You can just read that sentence and it speaks for itself. I don’t want to see that S**t! I’m no slave and I’m already aware of that history. Black America and all of America is speaking green $$$ at the box offices, screaming…WE WANT TO SEE OUR SELVES TOO IN A POSITIVE LIGHT!!! We are missing great talent as a result of White Hollywood. It’s time to hire diverse producers and mix up the talent (all new talent!). No more Will Smith, Denzel, Sam, or Tom Cruz (c’mon you know the click). I’m over it. I may not be able to convince White Hollywood through righteousness of sharing but I might with the numbers. Best Man Holiday beat Thor….Thor.

    • doromarketing
      11/18/2013

      Yes! And thank you for the comment. The Best Man beat Thor and it did so decidedly! No way to deny it. There’s a wealth of talent out there, actors and actresses waiting for opportunities to share their gifts with the world. If you wanted “Orange is the New Black” on Netflix, some of those women were such wonderful actresses, I would love to see them in major roles with contemporary themes – or perhaps comedies with full plots. Now with the numbers to back it up, maybe we can be better entertained sooner.

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This entry was posted on 11/17/2013 by in Cup of Coffee and tagged , , , , , , , , , .
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