Malcolm D Lee, as the cousin of Spike, has more to live up to than most first-time writer/directors. His debut, a funny but barbed romantic comedy, is enjoyable enough to sidestep allegations of nepotism (Spike nabs a credit as producer), but Lee's obviously better in front of a word processor than he is behind a megaphone. The spark of the dialogue is not matched by that of the camera: the film looks very flat and the comic relief, although providing a couple of drop-your-pop-corn-laughing moments, is too cartoonish to sustain dramatic tension.
But, while he may need a lesson in using a dolly, Lee does elicit a bunch of superb performances from his young cast. Terrence Howard is both menacing and charming as wayward casanova Quentin, and Morris Chestnut is particularly impressive as Lance. Best known for playing the unfortunate, lead-chewing Ricky Baker in Boyz N The Hood, his immense physical presence (brick shithouse) give the scenes in which he deals with his betrayal a frightening sense of simmering, under-the surface violence.
Diggs, meanwhile, swaps his role as groom in the similarly-themed The Wood for that of the best man. So good in Go, and the best thing in House On Haunted Hill (though that wasn't very hard), he may well be on his way to becoming a big star. Yet in The Best Man it's hard to appreciate him as Harper, a man so commitment-shy and so totally self-satisfied that you wonder why everyone likes him so much.
It's also incredibly hard to believe that anyone would write a novel which so blatantly mirrors their own life. Mind you, Woody Allen's made a fine career out of it, and the wit of Lee's screenplay helps to distract from the implausibility of the situation. But - - whisper it - - it'd still have turned out better if Spike had directed it.
A fresh romantic comedy that's somewhat let down by a wayward plot, The Best Man is well worth watching for the outstanding ensemble acting and the intelligent, schmaltz-avoiding handling of love, marriage and friendship.
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