A street-wise teen from Baltimore who has been raised by a single mother travels to New York City to spend the Christmas holiday with his estranged relatives, where he embarks on a surprising and inspirational journey.
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 (Jennifer Hudson). Langston embarks on a surprising and inspirational journey and along with his new friends, and a little divine intervention, he discovers the true meaning of faith, healing, and family. Written by
Going in I knew this was a movie with music and that's what it is, versus a "musical" like Les Miserables, where there's singing throughout opera-style.
All the actors stand out and do their characterizations well. Especially Jennifer Hundson as Naima, the single mom raising a boy-child on her own without help and estranged from her parents. Especially Tyrese who really shows his gentle side as Tyson. His body and face marked with scars, he looks like a thug but has a worldly view as he tries to steer young Langston to the right side of life. Especially Forrest Whitaker who characterizes the Reverend Cobb. Stern, unyielding but with a soft side. Especially the music that soars and transforms the screen into a gospel show near the end. Director Kasi Lemmons ("Eve's Bayou") integrates stage show with movie set ala "Rent". The story of a young boy struggling to find answers and being pulled toward wrongful ways is simplified and strikes just the right tone with spirituality and religiousness.
Near the end the drama is laid on thick.
See it! This is the only "live" action musical of the year and while it is based on a little known play written by Langston Hughes, it's a triumphant interpretation on film.
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