From the way Jacob Latimore dodged some very tasteless questions he was asked on The Breakfast Club, he confirmed he could carry the lead role in a film like "Black Nativity." With the magnetic looks, charm, old soul and ability to carry a tune (which he also proved to have on the radio interview), he'd at least get teenage girls interested. But can he act? Absolutely.
The ending of "Black Nativity" left much to be desired, but from the way the camera zoomed in on Latimore's facial expressions, he should definitely be requested to do more films. Something about him is reminiscent of actors Kerry Washington and Idris Elba. He doesn't have to say a word and lets viewers know exactly how he feels from the look in his eyes.
Jennifer Hudson had already proven herself in "Dream Girls." Tyrese Gibson has a long list of stellar acting roles from "Baby Boy" to "2 Fast 2 Furious" and the rest of the car-racing series. Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett have a slew of awards. But Latimore validated his career by carrying this storyline similar to the way Brandon Hammond did in the 1997 film "Soul Food."
Langston (played by Latimore) is a teen boy sent to live with his grandparents, Reverend Cornell Cobs (played by Whitaker) and Aretha Cobbs (played by Bassett) after Langston's mother Naima (played by Hudson) gets an eviction notice. Langston initially rebels. He has no idea why he doesn't know his grandparents and doesn't want to leave his mother behind to fend for herself. But Naima isn't budging in her decision and Langston is sent to New York.
Unlike many musicals, when the actors -- who also included hip-hop legend Nas and R&B singers Mary J. Blige and Luke, burst into raps and songs, it's not completely out of nowhere. Even in the few scenes Tyson "Loot" (played by Gibson) was featured in, spots where it seems like he should sing are when he doesn't and when he does is when it's unexpected.
Some viewers may be surprised that Whitaker and Bassett can cantillate. Neither heavyweight actors' voices will be something expected to branch off into a music career, but both had decent singing voices. Whitaker already admitted on "Live with Kelly and Michael" that he'd trained in opera music at University of Southern California so singing was not new to him. However, Hudson sang the most, and it was a bit disappointing to not hear Tyrese or Luke sing more, but considering each of their roles in the film, that made sense, too. Rotimi fans may be disappointed that the actor/singer who plays Officer Butch McDaniels doesn't sing at all.
"Black Nativity" was easy to follow and had an interesting plot. The problem with the film is the most climactic scene was in a location where it just didn't seem realistic for the secret that was unleashed. There's no way to explain the downside without spoiling the film, but it's safe to say that had these same confessions been told in a private spot (even a back room) it would've been less distracting than an entire audience listening in. By the time all of Langston's questions were answered, I was too distracted by the location to be intrigued by the delivery.
Other than that, "Black Nativity" was an enjoyable film worth 4 out of 5 stars, and Langston Hughes fan will adore how often the poet/author was mentioned.
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