Movie Preview

The Best Man (1999)

Details Rated: R; Length: 125 Minutes; Genres: Comedy, Drama; With: Taye Diggs and Nia Long; Distributors: MCA and Universal

A group of seven college friends come together for a big life event. Flirting, fighting, and alcohol-induced stupors ensue. Sound familiar? ''I was definitely influenced by movies like 'The Big Chill,''' says Lee, who also wrote this reunion flick revolving around a wedding. ''I wanted to do a movie about a group of friends who are intelligent, have got hang-ups, emotions, and they're American. They just happen to be black.''

And good lower-budget scripts with African-American appeal happen to be good business. Given Twentieth Century Fox's success with films like ''Waiting to Exhale'' and ''Soul Food,'' Universal gave Lee's $9 million film a near-instant green light. ''It's not like Hollywood was trying to make a statement,'' insists Lee. ''For some reason, wedding pictures do well at the box office.''

But Diggs (''How Stella Got Her Groove Back'') sees other reasons for the film's appeal: ''Every black actor out there wanted this. It's about young, educated, articulate black men and women. I don't see many scripts like that.''

It didn't hurt that Lee's cousin -- maybe you've heard of him? -- was on board as a producer. ''Spike only visited the first day,'' says Lee. ''He knows a director needs control of his set. If he'd been there it would have been all 'Oh! Spike Lee!' No one needed that.'' BUZZ FACTOR: 3

Originally posted Aug 13, 1999

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