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2:39 AM / Sunday August 14, 2022

1 Dec 2013

Black Nativity–Jennifer Hudson steals show in screen adaptation of Langston Hughes musical

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December 1, 2013 Category: Entertainment Posted by:

ABOVE PHOTO: Jennifer Hudson and Jacob Lattimore in Black Nativity.

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Review by Kam Williams

Naima (Jennifer Hudson) is a single-mom struggling to pay the rent on the apartment she shares with son Langston (Jacob Latimore), 15, who’s the same age
she was when she had him. Back then, she was as headstrong as he is now, which explains why she ran away from a good home in Harlem to raise him alone in
Baltimore.

Today, upon receiving an eviction notice, cash-strapped Naima reluctantly sends the rebellious adolescent in need of a father figure to New York to live
with her parents, Aretha (Angela Bassett) and Rev. Cornell Cobbs (Forest Whitaker), prominent members of the black community. But Langston lands in trouble
even before they have a chance to pick him up at the bus station, so they end-up having to bail him out of jail.

Is it too late for anyone to make a difference in the rebellious juvenile delinquent’s life? Can the Cobbs mend the fractured relationship with their
long-estranged daughter? Will Langston belatedly bond with the absentee father he’s never known?

These are the pivotal questions raised in Black Nativity, a modern morality play based on the Langston Hughes musical of the same name. Adapted
and directed by Kasi Lemmons (Eve’s Bayou), the film features an engaging soundtrack sprinkled with evocative onscreen performances by principal
cast members as well as by Mary J. Blige, Nas and Tyrese in support roles. All pale in comparison to Jennifer Hudson’s emotional spirituals.

Fair warning to theatergoers ordinarily operating on CPT. Don’t take the risk of arriving too late to catch the incomparable diva’s unforgettable opener,
“Test of Faith,” a showstopper every bit as memorable as her heartfelt rendition of “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” as Effie in Dreamgirls.

A moving parable as memorable for its music as for its timeless message about the importance of faith and family.

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated PG for menacing, mature themes and mild epithets

Running time: 93 minutes

Distributor: Fox Searchlight

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