Black Nativity

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With eviction looming on her Baltimore unit, struggling single mom Naima (Hudson) is forced to send her daughter (Latimore) to stay with her estranged parents (Whitaker and Bassett) in Harlem. The bolshie teen soon falls under their charismatic spell.


Adapting and expanding Langston Hughes’ stage re-telling of the Nativity story into a full-blown musical about a troubled family, Kasi Lemmons is attempting to make an uplifting, Christmas perennial. Several solid performances (particularly from Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett) and some decent earworm songs can’t quite balance the feeling that it’s preaching rather than teaching. The message of forgiveness and helping others might be an important one, but here it feels like it’s being delivered with the subtlety of a brick to the forehead — albeit a brick that has been cheerfully decorated with holly.

Despite the odd rip-roaring tune and some sturdy performances, this yuletide tale is as memorable as last year's sprouts.