Lime Review - Screen
Starring: Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Tyrese Gibson, Jennifer Hudson and Jacob Latimore
One assumes that this Seasonal offering is only loosely based on the source material, which is a play by Langston Hughes. The main character is called Langston, named after the poet, and it's hard to see someone writing themselves into their own work. Either way, this contemporary tale set in Harlem is a musical that takes itself seriously, and works all the better for it.
Teenager Langston (Jacob Latimore) is sent to live with his grandparents by his mother (Jennifer Hudson), as she struggles to make ends meet over Christmas. She hasn't spoken to her parents in years, and Langston has never met them. As he arrives from Baltimore, he is taken in by his relations and begins to ask questions of The Reverend Cornell Cobbs (Forest Whitaker) and his Aretha Cobbs (Angela Bassett), his estranged grandparents. Along the way he meets a man (Tyrese Gibson) who offers advice but appears to know more than he is letting on.
The fractured relationships come to a head on Christmas eve as the Reverend delivers his annual “Black Nativity”. The sermon about love and understanding has added resonance as there appears to be little peace or compassion back at home.
The film makes good use of the festive season, although the setting and location is kept relatively underused. The finale goes on for an age in the church, although there is a great escapism route offered.
Young Latimore is very good, and Whitaker adds the necessary gravitas to the film. Some lines are cheesy but he never falters in keeping it stoic throughout. Whenever the action wavers, or the singing talents of the main leads isn't up to scratch, an S.O.S is sent out to Jennifer Hudson who pipes in some lung-busting choruses.
It all feels Christmas-y and those sorts of films are surprisingly lacking this year. As great as The Hobbit might be, it really doesn't scream of the festivities to us, even if those Blockbusters are now expected.
Sit back, enjoy the tunes and brace yourself for Hudson. She's so loud that you'll feel they can hear her in New York as she warbles all the way from Baltimore!
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