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It’s shamelessly manipulative. It’s about 15 minutes too long, having, by my count, three separate endings. And yet despite all that, “The Best Man Holiday” is disarmingly heartwarming.

Set at Christmas, “Holiday,” the sequel to writer-director Malcolm D. Lee’s 1999 romantic dramedy “The Best Man,” is the sudsiest of soap operas. It features beautiful people in beautiful surroundings succumbing to jealousies, railing about betrayals, dealing bravely with medical crises — and doing it all beautifully. The upscale settings glow with a high-gloss sheen, and the tailoring of the players is impeccable.

The characters, all returning from the first picture, include a star NFL running back (played by Morris Chestnut), a best-selling author (Taye Diggs), a high-powered TV executive (Nia Long) and a top chef (Sanaa Lathan).

The key to the picture’s appeal is the sincerity of the performances. The actors play their characters with such depth of feeling that they make even the most clichéd and hokum-drenched situations resonate with unexpected levels of emotional authenticity.

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The characters are all longtime friends who reunite nearly 15 years after the events of the first movie to celebrate Christmas at the mansion of Chestnut’s football star and his loving wife (Monica Calhoun). The interpersonal dynamics that animated the first picture are all revisited.

For instance, the football player still resents the writer for his tell-all novel that told too much about the past
triangular entanglements of the athlete, the writer and the athlete’s now-wife. Numerous other relationship crosscurrents ebb and flow throughout the movie as Lee jumps from one to another, jarringly inserting comic moments to lighten up the picture when heavy revelations — someone’s dying, someone’s broke — weigh it down.

There’s a kind of comforting, old-fashioned feel to “Holiday.” It’s designed to be a crowd pleaser and it certainly hits its mark.

Soren Andersen:

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