Jacob Latimore in Black Nativity (2013)

A Harlem Nativity

Things are not good for Langston (Jacob Latimore) in Baltimore as his father left when he was just a baby and his mother, Naima (Jennifer Hudson), can't pay the bills so is losing their home. It is why he finds himself sent to Harlem to spend Christmas with his estranged grandparents, the Reverend Cornell (Forest Whitaker) and Aretha Cobbs (Angela Bassett). Not only does Langston find living with his proud grandfather difficult but he is also an angry young man who wants answers from why his father left to why his mother won't talk to her own parents. And to make matters worse he is being forced to attend his grandfather's church for a Christmas eve service and a retelling of the nativity.

I genuinely don't know how I feel about "Black Nativity" as parts of this musical really impressed, parts genuinely moved me to tears yet parts were so out there creatively that I thought I had been transported back to the experimental 70s. It has left me conflicted when it comes to my feelings and "Black Nativity" also leaves me in a difficult position because to go in to detail would mean spoiling some of the twists and turns which fill the second half of the movie which if you haven't seen the play might surprise you.

Angela Bassett in Black Nativity (2013)

So what I will say is that whilst for me "Black Nativity" has its issues with some of the more imaginative scenes when it comes to the nativity side of the story you will be impressed by the acting throughout with Jacob Latimore stealing the scene from many of the stars of this movie with a tough but soulful performance as the troubled Langston. But with this also being a musical you will also be impressed with the singing with the likes of Jennifer Hudson, Angela Bassett and Mary J. Blige all delivering the rich, emotional vocals you expect but then getting pleasantly surprised by Forest Whitaker whilst Tyrese Gibson reminds us that he is more than just an actor.

What this all boils down to is that, and I apologise for the vagueness and brevity of this review, "Black Nativity" is at times heavily flawed with some creative visuals which failed to work for me. But then when it gets it right it moves you in an amazing way especially with some stunning singing which is where this movie is at its best.

Tags: Christmas Movies