The Best Man

On paper, The Best Man doesn't look promising. Its premise bears a striking resemblance to lead Taye Diggs' last film, the similarly wedding-centric The Wood. Plus, its writer and director (Malcolm D. Lee) is the cousin of producer Spike Lee, and relatives of celebrities don't usually have a stellar track record as filmmakers. Even more ominous is the fact that its protagonist is a writer, generally a warning sign that a screenwriter isn't being especially imaginative. But The Best Man is a decent mainstream film, sappy but also sharp-witted and consistently entertaining. Diggs stars as a superhumanly attractive and successful writer who travels to New York for the wedding of college friend Morris Chestnut. Once he arrives, he soon finds himself dealing with misdeeds from his past, particularly an ill-conceived night of passion with Chestnut's wife-to-be. Part of what sets The Best Man apart from lesser buppie comedies (including The Wood) is the depth of its characters. Lee has a real gift for creating realistic, multi-dimensional characters, and the male friends he crafts (who include Oz's Harold Perrineau Jr. and a scene-stealing Terrence Dashon Howard) have a pleasantly lived-in chemistry. Diggs, meanwhile, imbues his role with a vulnerability that plays off his good looks, while Chestnut turns what could have easily been a stupid-jock stereotype into a winning comic creation. It succumbs to sappiness a good half-hour before it ends, but The Best Man is still the rare mainstream romantic comedy-drama that actually works.

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