NEW YORK (CNS) — If you’re tempted to bewail the absence of Christ from Christmas these days, you’ll find the Lord right where he belongs — front and center, receiving praise and worship — in the rousing musical drama “Black Nativity” (Fox Searchlight).
In fact, redemption-centered Christian faith pervades the picture to a degree rarely seen in a mainstream movie.
That’s just as well, since the urban setting of this adaptation — and updating — of poet Langston Hughes’ 1961 song-play surrounds its characters with a host of ills from which to be saved. A case in point: the poverty besetting Baltimore single mother Naima Cobb (Jennifer Hudson).
Facing eviction from the home she shares with her good-hearted but naive son, Langston (Jacob Latimore) — named for the author, of course — Naima sends Langston to New York to live with her estranged parents: stern Harlem minister Cornell (Forest Whitaker) and his more sympathetic wife, Aretha (Angela Bassett). Naima hopes the arrangement will only be temporary.
Miserable in his new surroundings, Langston pines for his mom and chafes under the exacting standards of respectability enforced by his grandfather. He’s also plagued by misadventures, one of which lands him in jail for a time.
Tempted to solve Naima’s financial woes by stealing enough loot to get her back on her feet, misguided Langston seems headed for the life of a petty criminal. But the annual holiday pageant Cornell’s church puts on — during which Langston has a vision of the first Christmas — helps him to see the light.
So too does the unexpected intervention of a concerned acquaintance (Tyrese Gibson), a man Langston first encountered during his brief incarceration.
Soulful musical performances, unabashed piety and resoundingly positive values go a long way to smoothing over the rough patches in screenwriter and director Kasi Lemmons’ screen parable. Though not a movie for small children, this heartfelt salute to forgiveness, family unity and the power of religious belief will likely delight most others.
The film contains mature themes and the occasional threat of violence. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.
Join the CatholicPhilly.com family
CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you and hundreds of other people become part of our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community and sustain CatholicPhilly.com as your trusted news source. Thank you in advance!
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
PREVIOUS: Good action, solid moral center for ‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’
NEXT: Animated fun of ‘Frozen’ can warm anyone’s heart
Share this story