A rare ‘Holiday’ that seems to last too long

Movie: The Best Man Holiday; Director: Malcolm D. Lee; Studio: Universal Pictures; Rating: R; My finding: 2 and a half out of 5 stars.

It felt like I was in the theater forever. Sure, “The Best Man Holiday” comes in at two hours, which is only slightly above average length for a feature film, but it felt like much longer.

Sure, I’m not the target audience for this sequel to “The Best Man,” a movie I haven’t seen that came out 14 years ago, but there were certainly parts of it that affected me, made me laugh, and even enjoy some of the time invested. But the saving grace would have been a good editor.

In many ways, the film plays out like 1983’s “The Big Chill,” only these old friends are gathering together again after a long absence from closeness, not for a funeral of one of their number. They want to celebrate Christmas in a gigantic mansion in the New York metropolitan area, probably New Jersey. It’s the home of Lance Sullivan (Morris Chestnut), a top running back for the New York Giants.

Even if, like me, you haven’t seen the original film, you will get acquainted with the ensemble of characters in a quick edit showing the end results of what happened the last time they were all together. This beginning sequence actually plays out like a glossy “In Last Week’s Episode” television-style review of events and sets up the film for an overall style that doesn’t add much benefit.

Instead, it feels like a bit of a hodgepodge.

Harper Stewart (Taye Diggs) used to be a best selling novelist, but he took too long between books and is now struggling with trying to redefine his image. He’s also paying mounting bills and debts exacerbated even further because he’s about to be a father. That’s right, beautiful actress Sanaa Lathan, who played a part in 2011’s “Contagion,” spends the entire production extremely pregnant.

But Harper’s agent sees a beautiful way for him to make a comeback.

Why doesn’t Harper use Lance to his advantage? Apparently the football player will be retiring soon and a biography of a retiring sports superstar will fly off the shelf. The trouble is, though, that Lance and Harper lost their best friend status when Harper had an affair with Lance’s now-wife, Mia (Monica Calhoun) during the course of the previous film.

So, Harper decides to dust off his “journalistic skills” and attend the invitation put out by Lance and Mia to attend their Christmas party. There he tries to be friends again, while also mining for quotes and tidbits for the book, before gaining the courage to ask Lance if he can be his biographer.

But, he has some help in this endeavor.

Nia Long plays Jordan, a media executive and one of the close-knit group of friends. She uncovers Harper’s desire to write about

Lance and decides to help him out, like convincing Mia to get into the idea since Lance will do anything she asks of him.

The other characters all have their role, whether a part of the primary plot or one of their own, increasingly complicated sub-plot lines.

And that’s where the move suffers and feels overly long. There are just too many interchanges going on, and whenever the film moves away from “The Big Chill” style talks between friends over memories and what’s going on now, it loses its focus and its appeal and can shift wildly from those calmer moments to freakouts and pandemonium. And that’s too bad. A bit more focus on just the main plot with one or two much, much smaller sub-plot lines would have made this a much more enjoyable film.

Also, there is no reason for Melissa De Sousa’s character, Shelby, whatsoever. She’s apparently famous on “The Real Housewives of Westchester County” within the universe the movie is in, and her grating personality and lack of interest in anything other than herself would certainly fit the bill of a reality television star. The problem, though, is that the character is cookie-cutter and will oh-so-obviously regain her humanity by the end of the film because she’s so far down that there’s only up left to go.

But there is much fun to be had in Julian and Quentin, the two funnier characters. Julian is played by Harold Perrineau, a favorite of mine who was the narrator in “Oz,” my favorite television show, and also appeared in “Lost” and the later Matrix films. Here he runs a private school and is desperate for donations after a major philanthropist finds a moral problem that prevents him from donating further money. And Quentin, played by Terrence Howard of 2005’s “Hustle and Flow,” is just good comic relief.

Really there wasn’t all that much wrong with the movie, but it was simply too jumbled and relied too much on a movie released nearly 15 years ago to be worthy of high recommendation.

(Flint McColgan is a staff writer for The Minot Daily News. His movie reviews appear in Thursday’s Arts &?Entertainment section.)