By Jack Rico
The “1-4-0”: #BlackNativity is a spiritually uplifting holiday musical drama, worthy of your time and praise this Holiday season!
The Gist: Based on the Langston Hughes‘ celebrated play of the same name, this musical drama follows Langston (Jacob Latimore), a young kid with a chip on his shoulder and the wrong outlook on life. When they’re suddenly evicted from their house, he has to move in with his estranged grandparents in Harlem New York. The meeting between them brings about a plethora of questions about his identity and a life-defining consequences that will change him forever and allow to understand the true meaning of faith, healing, and family.
The Highlights: With a cast composed of Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Tyrese Gibson, Jennifer Hudson, Mary J. Blige, Jacob Latimore and Nas, what is not to like? Latimore is a standout, but Whitaker delivers another excellent performance full of gravitas and authority. Between this and The Butler, Whitaker is in rare form.
The Lowlights: In my opinion, the film would have worked better as a straightforward drama, rather than a musical. I felt the musical acts detracted from the emotional build-up of the film. The songs are not presented ubiquitously like in Les Miserablés, but more like Grease where the songs are performed intermittently. Though the music contains a rich and deep message of family with religious overtones, they’re not catchy enough to engrain themselves in your head once you’ve left the theater.
Pay or Nay?: Pay for it. This Holiday season, commercial fare is at an uptick, but few films deliver powerful messages of family, faith and redemption. Black Nativity is such a film that might just change you.
Rated: PG for thematic material, language and a menacing situation.
Release Date: Nov 27, 2013
Screenplay: Langston Hughes (libretto), Kasi Lemmons (screenplay)
Director(s): Kasi Lemmons
Starring: Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Tyrese Gibson, Jennifer Hudson, Mary J. Blige, Jacob Latimore, Nas
Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Film Genre: Drama, Musical