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Black Nativity Review Critics


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This (Weird) Christmas Read full review

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Critics scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.

  • 3.0

    out of 100

    Mixed or average reviews
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 50

    out of 100

    Entertainment Weekly Chris Nashawaty

    While Hudson's and costar Mary J. Blige's soulful, stirring musical numbers are absolute dynamite, the rest of the film's story is larded with enough soap opera twists and heavy-handed schmaltz that you'll feel like you're being bludgeoned with a hymnal.

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  • 50

    out of 100

    The Hollywood Reporter Stephen Farber

    This holiday extravaganza with an all-star cast has a lot of failings. But it seems likely to tap into the audience’s enthusiasm for uplifting entertainment.

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  • 60

    out of 100

    Variety Justin Chang

    Lemmons advances this story with straight-faced conviction, orchestrating narrative and spectacle with a grandiosity that proves easier to admire from a distance than it is to engage with onscreen.

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  • 63

    out of 100

    USA Today Claudia Puig

    Anchored by a topnotch ensemble cast, it's toe-tapping holiday fare that's also a potent reminder that family resentments and hardened hearts serve no one.

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  • 63

    out of 100

    Chicago Tribune Michael Phillips

    Whitaker's performance is the rock here. Even when the confrontations and evasions get a little ridiculous, he's neither wholly saint nor sinner, but something like a human being.

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  • 75

    out of 100

    Chicago Sun-Times Mary Houlihan

    Lemmons and her cast, aided by some great music, have created an interlude sure to lift the spirit during the holiday season.

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For Families provided by Common Sense Media

OK for kids 9+

Christmas musical is feel-good story of faith, forgiveness.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that the musical Black Nativity is a modernization of Langston Hughes' 1961 play of the same name with a gospel twist. There's nothing particularly alarming for younger kids, but there are a couple of scenes when a young man has skirmishes with the law (he's mistakenly arrested for pickpocketing when he was just trying to return the wallet) and later tries to rob a pawnshop at gunpoint. Hughes' poetry is recited (or sung) throughout the movie, as are traditional gospel songs. The story of Jesus' birth becomes the driving force for an estranged family's reunion in this holiday musical.

  • Families can talk about the movie's connection to famous American poet Langston Hughes. What does the movie teach about Hughes' poems and their setting in Harlem? What do his poems have to do with the nativity story?
  • What did you think of this retelling of the nativity story in a contemporary setting? Did you appreciate the way the gospel music was integrated into the story?
  • Do you prefer religious holiday movies or secular ones? Discuss why or why not your family celebrates the religious aspects of Christmas.

The good stuff
  • message true4

    Messages: There are plenty of positive messages about the importance of faith, family, and forgiveness. The story focuses on the possibility of redemption and the need for unconditional love between parents and children. There's also a strong Christian message about the birth of Jesus and the importance of being able to repent and forgive. Langston Hughes' poetry, which is sung/recited throughout the movie, also offers thought-provoking messages about empowerment, overcoming life's difficulties, and the sadness of delaying dreams.

  • rolemodels true3

    Role models: Reverend Cobbs proves that even men of God make mistakes and require forgiveness. Langston learns the truth of his birth, the story behind his mother's separation from her parents, and the necessity of reconnecting with your roots. Even though he makes mistakes -- including stealing from his grandfather -- he ultimately brings his family together. Naima wants to keep her son safe, and Mrs. Cobbs wants to get to know her grandson for the first time.

What to watch for
  • violence false2

    Violence: A minor takes a gun he's about to (illegally) buy and tries to hold up a pawn shop. A police officer holds a gun up to the underage suspect but lets the young guy go with just a warning. A teenager is arrested when he's caught holding a man's wallet (that he was actually trying to return). He stays in jail and nearly gets into a fight with a man.

  • sex false1

    Sex: A young couple embraces and holds hands. Adults make references to a teen pregnancy.

  • language false1

    Language: Language/insults includes "damn," "hell," "punk," "Lunch Money," "no good," etc.

  • consumerism false2

    Consumerism: Peter Pan bus lines; a Cadillac; Samsung, Starbucks, Hyundai, and various storefronts along 125th Street in Harlem.

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false0

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Not applicable