Black Nativity 

Christmas is for forgiveness, says this melodrama


Kasi Lemmons directs this contemporary adaptation of Langston Hughes' play about family, forgiveness and reconciliation at Christmas time. A single mom (Jennifer Hudson), facing eviction, sends her teenage son, Langston (Jacob Latimore), to New York City. There, he can spend the holidays with her parents (Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett), from whom she is long estranged. Langston finds temptation in the big city, but also, through a series of lessons (including a dream in which the nativity is recreated in Harlem), learns about the importance of family and heritage. The work is enlivened with R&B songs, and fortified with Hughes' words. That's not to say the film isn't sentimental and full of contrivance, but the cast plays the material straight and soberly, which helps buttress the melodrama and saves it from mawkishness. Plus, this is a straight-up PG film without snarkiness, cursing and other naughtiness that you can take the whole family to.


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