Black Nativity Kasi Lemmons' Black Nativity is a lot like a glazed holiday ham: sticky, sweet, and all too easy to mess up. Based on Langston Hughes'… Black Nativity Kasi Lemmons' Black Nativity is a lot like a glazed holiday ham: sticky, sweet, and all too easy to mess up. Based on Langston Hughes'… 2013-11-27 PG PT95M Drama Angela Bassett Mary J. Blige Jennifer Hudson Forest Whitaker Fox Searchlight Pictures
Movie Review

Black Nativity (2013)

MPAA Rating: PG
FADE TO... Black Nativity has wonderful musical numbers but little else.
Image credit: Phil Bray
FADE TO... Black Nativity has wonderful musical numbers but little else.
EW's GRADE
C

Details Limited Release: Nov 27, 2013; Rated: PG; Length: 95 Minutes; Genre: Drama; With: Angela Bassett, Mary J. Blige, Jennifer Hudson and Forest Whitaker; Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Kasi Lemmons' Black Nativity is a lot like a glazed holiday ham: sticky, sweet, and all too easy to mess up. Based on Langston Hughes' acclaimed 1961 gospel play, the film stars Jennifer Hudson as a single Baltimore mother who falls on hard times and decides to send her teenage son (newcomer Jacob Latimore) to Harlem to spend Christmas with her estranged parents. That those parents are played by Angela Bassett and Forest Whitaker is one of the few saving graces of the movie. Their characters may be broad archetypes — he's the stern and too-proud Baptist preacher, she's the dispenser of hugs, wisdom, and sweet potato pies — but they do the most they can with them. Staged as a raise-the-roof Rent-style musical replete with an inner-city Mary-and-Joseph back-alley manger sequence, Black Nativity is so unabashedly melodramatic you almost have to admire its complete lack of cynicism. But while Hudson's and costar Mary J. Blige's soulful, stirring musical numbers are absolute dynamite, the rest of the film's story is larded with enough soap opera twists and heavy-handed schmaltz that you'll feel like you're being bludgeoned with a hymnal. C

Originally posted Nov 26, 2013 Published in issue #1288 Dec 06, 2013 Order article reprints
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