Black Nativity Movie Review
Just in time for Easter, Fox has released the Christmas musical Black Nativity onto Blu-ray and DVD. Though the title makes it sound like a horror movie, the only real scary part is that the movie was made with a nauseatingly cheesy story and equally dumb characters. The target audience won't likely mind, as the energetic music and Christian themes of forgiveness are what really matter.
If Tyler Perry movies have taught us anything, it's that the churchgoing African-American crowd is not very discriminate when it comes to poorly made movies. Black Nativity is not affiliated with Mr. Perry, but it suffers from the same poorly written characters and cheeseball storytelling, albeit without a cross-dressing madwoman (madman?).
Though the film features a decent cast headlined by Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Tyrese Gibson, Mary J. Blige and Jennifer Hudson, the movie rests on the shoulders of unknown Jacob Latimore - and Latimore, unfortunately, is not up to the task. While I won't comment on his acting, which is undoubtedly affected by the lame screenplay written by director Kasi Lemmons (based on a play by Langston Hughes), his character is painfully underdeveloped.
The teen comes home one day to discover that he and his mother (played by 32-year-old Jennifer Hudson) are being evicted from their Baltimore home. She sends him to stay with his estranged grandparents in New York City, but before he even gets out of Times Square his backpack is stolen and he gets arrested for stealing a wallet from a white guy, even though he is simply trying to hand it back to the man (how is this not extremely racist toward white people?). This whole sequence of events really makes no sense, but things only gets worse as he immediately tries to pawn a priceless watch inscribed by Martin Luther King, Jr. that he steals from his grandfather, and then attempts buy a gun. The kid is presented as a good kid, but he just comes off as an irrational punk who has no intelligence whatsoever.
Black Nativity ends on an uplifting note as everything clicks into place in an unbelievable and eye-rolling way, which as you may have noticed is a theme for the film.
Despite all its weaknesses, Black Nativity isn't a complete lost. It is, first and foremost, a musical, and the various musical numbers sung throughout help gloss over some of the film's shortcomings. At only 90 minutes long, the movie's fast pace makes it fairly easy to watch despite the cringe-inducing screenplay.
But in the end, if you really want the music, just buy the damn soundtrack.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.