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Susan Granger's review of 'The Best Man Holiday'

Back in 1999, Malcolm D. Lee concocted a romantic dramedy about African-American college friends working out life's most complicated problems. Now -- 14 years later -- they've reassembled to celebrate the Yuletide season together.

While the first film focused on Harper (Taye Diggs), the sequel shifts to Mia (Monica Calhoun), who married Lance (Morris Chestnut), a New York Giants superstar running back, and they now have four children. According to Lance, what's important in life is, "God, family, football -- in that order." But Mia desperately misses her old friends, so, despite Lance's misgivings, she graciously invites everyone to their magnificently decorated, suburban mansion for Christmas weekend.

Not surprisingly, each has his/her own quandary. NYU professor/struggling writer Harper, who hasn't had a best seller since "Unfinished Business," his semi-autobiographi-cal novel about his friends' early days, has an ulterior motive

for making the trip. But he doesn't realize that his long-suffering, very-pregnant wife, Robyn (Sanaa Lathan), worries about him reconnecting with Jordan (Nia Long), his former flame, now an executive at MSNBC who's brought along her new "vanilla" boyfriend Brian (Eddie Cibran).

Private school administrator/social activist Julian (Harold Perrineau) is worried about a scandalous YouTube video of his wife ,Candace (Regina Hall), a former stripper, and the catty revelations of his slutty ex, Shelby (Melissa DeSousa), who is now a reality-TV star on "The Real Housewives of Westchester."

And trouble-making bachelor Quentin (Terrence Howard) is up to his rascally tricks, wandering around the house without his pants.

Mixing raunchy comedy with predictable, if sometimes forced and formulaic Christian melodrama and long-winded dialogue, writer/director Malcolm D. Lee (Spike's cousin) manages to keep the pace steady, even if every simplistic plot turn is telegraphed in advance.

To his credit, Lee takes full advantage of his talented cast, setting up for yet another sequel.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Best Man Holiday" is a soapy, seasonal 6. Perhaps comedian Seth MacFarlane put it best when he dubbed this "Love Blacktually."

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