#REVIEW: “BLACK NATIVITY”
Although I’m certain the Stage Play on which it is based is much more powerful an experience, Actress/Writer/Director Kasi Lemons brings Langston Hughes’ Off-Broadway Musical Black Nativity to the Big Screen. The Musical-Drama retells the Nativity Story with an entirely Black Cast, complete with a selection of modernized, soulful renditions of Holiday Carols and Gospel Numbers.
After being evicted from their Baltimore Apartment, Naima (Jennifer Hudson) sends her Son Langston (Jacob Latimore) to live with her estranged Parents – her Father Reverend Cornell (Forest Whitaker) and Mother Angela (Angela Bassett). Tempted to turn to crime to help save his financially-ailing Mother, Jacob is faced with his own spiritual battle where one wrong turn could seal his fate forever. Separated from Naima, he meets new Friends along the way who help discover Faith and the Family he never knew he had.
I have no doubt that there is a Niche Market in need of something uplifting and inspirational this Holiday Season, but what preventts Black Nativity from truly being special is that it lacks that magical Holiday essence. This is a pity considering the remarkable Oscar Calibre Cast, who clearly are trying here, including a promising performance from multi-talented Breakout Star Latimore, a Descendant in a line of talented Vocalists.
What is missing is that genuine emotional struggle that leaves you wanting to reflect back on your own life choices and walk away a better person. Hudson‘s Naima is absent much of the Film despite being an integral element of the Story and we find ourselves never fully rooting for this Mother-Son Reunion to happen, which truly is at the heart of the Story. Also, if this is indeed an Homage to the Nativity Story and a call for Faith, the spirit of it is lost in the gun-wielding Melodrama. For much of the latter part of the Film, we feel like we’re held captive at Church with the hatches battened down. Believe me, we feel your pain Langston.
Fox Searchlight releases Black Nativity in Toronto on Wednesday, November 27, 2013.