Black Nativity (2013)

TOMATOMETER

AUDIENCE SCORE

Critic Consensus: It's sweetly amiable and solidly performed, but Black Nativity suffers from director Kasi Lemmons' heavy-handed treatment of its celebrated source material.


Movie Info

In a contemporary adaptation of Langston Hughes' celebrated play, the holiday musical drama BLACK NATIVITY follows Langston (Jacob Latimore), a street-wise teen from Baltimore raised by a single mother, as he journeys to New York City to spend the Christmas holiday with his estranged relatives Reverend Cornell and Aretha Cobbs (Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett). Unwilling to live by the imposing Reverend Cobbs' rules, a frustrated Langston is determined to return home to his mother, Naima … More

Rating: PG (for thematic material, language and a menacing situation)
Genre: Drama , Faith & Spirituality , Musical & Performing Arts
Directed By:
Written By: Langston Hughes , Kasi Lemmons
In Theaters:
On DVD: Apr 15, 2014
Box Office: $7.0M
Runtime:
Fox Searchlight - Official Site

Cast


as Reverend Cornell Cob...

as Aretha Cobbs

as Loot/Tyson

as Street Prophet (Isai...

as Maria/Mary

as Officer Butch McDani...

as Innkeeper

as Chic Man

as Chic Man's Mistress

as Hotel Security Guard

as Desperate Pawnshop W...

as Boy Thief

as Street Prophet (Isai...
Show More Cast

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Critic Reviews for Black Nativity

All Critics (81) | Top Critics (33)

All of Black Nativity proceeds with sort of clumsy obviousness.

Full Review… | December 10, 2013
Grantland
Top Critic

By the time the credits rolled, my eyes were sore from all the rolling.

Full Review… | December 9, 2013
Village Voice
Top Critic

Even the movie's most wretched characters glow in the Harlem lamplight.

Full Review… | November 28, 2013
NPR
Top Critic

Takes Hughes' nativity story and shoves it into the far background of a sincere but tritely told modern drama about family, faith, and redemption.

Full Review… | November 28, 2013
Boston Globe
Top Critic

To call it preachy isn't necessarily a critique; the entire film is essentially built around a closing sermon.

Full Review… | April 23, 2014
Columbus Alive

Defiantly simple, like earlier stage pageants based on Langston Hughes' Christmas play, Kasi Lemmons' "Black Nativity" gains power through its directness.

Full Review… | April 7, 2014
Newcity

Audience Reviews for Black Nativity

Director, Producer, and Actor Kasi Lemmons had the film world buzzing in 1997 when her feature-length debut "Eve's Bayou" hit art-house screens and racked up film festival awards along the way. It was also during the time that "Eve's Bayou" launched the careers of two unknown actresses Jurnee Smollett and Meagan Goode,who would go on to bigger and better things in their entertainment professions. Since then Kasi Lemmons has gone on to direct several films after the success of "Eve's Bayou" which was the Oscar-nominated "Talk To Me" with Don Cheadle (2007),along with "The Caveman's Valentine"(2001) with Samuel L. Jackson(who was also in Eve's Bayou),and the supernatural 2002 thriller "The Battle of Cloverfield". Her newest project "Black Nativity",a musical adaptation of Langston Hughes' perennial holiday play is astounding to watch and it is very entertaining. "Black Nativity" ,based on Langston Hughes' play is based loosely on the way Jesus of Nazareth entered the world in a manger in Bethlehem. And once it finds its footing ,this Harlem variation on the Nativity story manages to be sweet enough to touch people the way Christianity's "The Greatest Story Ever Told" always has.

"Black Nativity" is brilliant in its casting as well as the sympathetic handling of the material by Kasi Lemmons. In the movie version based on Langston Hughes' play, Young Langston(newcomer Jacob Latimore),a Baltimore teen who narrates his biography in rhymed couplets,but whose mother(Oscar winning actress Jennifer Hudson) is about to lose their home. "Ain't no miracles," the kid figures out. "Just money," while the mother is struggling to survive and pay the bills to keep them afloat. His mother sends the kid off from the slums of Baltimore to live with her estranged parents,the Rev. and Mrs, Cobbs (played by Oscar winning actor Forest Whitaker,and Oscar nominated best supporting actress Angela Bassett both of whom for their work in films "The Last King of Scotland",and "What's Love Got To Do With It?")whom welcomes their grandson with open arms,but it isnt long when the kid strikes back at their hospitality,only to find out that the mystery surrounding the family has been separated for years. Since this is a musical that has a running time of just 97 minutes long,the performances are first rate especially coming from Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett as well as Jennifer Hudson's dynamic singing presence here and it shows. The supporting players are also brilliant ranging from Tyrese Gibson in his best role in decades since "Baby Boy"(2001),along with the great Vondie Curtis-Hall as a streetwise pawnbroker,and R&B songstress Mary J, Blige as an angelic parishioner at Rev. Cobbs' Holy Resurrection Baptist Church. Not to mention having on board rapper/producer Nasir Jones(better known in the hip-hop establishment as "Nas"),along with Grace Gibson and Luke James in supporting roles.
The music by Laura Karpman and Raphael Saadiq, is brilliant modern soul with a hint of hip-hop that is integrated into the story. The movie is a grand detail of the comings and goings of the character,but it is Forest Whitaker(who is up for his second Oscar nomination this year for "The Butler" which was released in August of 2013),and Jennifer Hudson that keeps the film its greatness and edge. A must see.

rayman0071
Mister Caple

Super Reviewer

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