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Black Nativity


Stars: Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Tyrese Gibson, Jacob Latimore, Mary J. Blige, Nasir Jones, Vondie Curtis Hall, Jennifer Hudson

Director: Kasi Lemmons

“Christmas time is here, by golly, disapproval would be folly,” wrote Tom Lehrer.

And he was right. Well, as far as seasonal movies go, that is. Scrooge might have kicked the screen in after watching the tsunami of sincerity swamped onto the screen by writer-director Kasi Lemmons.

Unlike Scrooge, I left the screen intact. It is, after all, the season of goodwill.

Lemmons’ adaptation of Langston Hughes’ celebrated play for the screen, complete with appropriately decorous songs and dances as dictated by the subject – the reunion of the members of a dysfunctional family, catalyzed by the season of goodwill – was so steadfastly warm-hearted that there were times when I worried my that vest/singlet would catch on fire.

Happily that never happened, thanks to Lemmons’ balance and, above all, perfectly fit for purpose performances all round, led by Forest Whitaker as the Harlem preacher who, long cut off from his daughter Jennifer Hudson because of her unmarried pregnancy years ago, finally bonds with her again after she is evicted and sends her teenage son Jacob Latimore to Harlem to stay with grandparents Whitaker and Angela Bassett whom he has never met.

As you have every right to expect everything turns out for the best during the climactic song-and-dance production of Black Nativity in Whitaker’s church…

Performances are in tune with the overall niceness of the show.

(However, should you be prone to diabetes, take a syringe of insulin with you just in case the overriding sugariness of the carefully calculated confection should get to you).

Alan Frank

USA 2013. UK Distributor: 20th Century Fox. Colour by deluxe.
92 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: PG.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 08 Dec 2013