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Black Nativity Reviews

While T.D. Jakes has found much success as the best-selling author of inspirational books based on Christian teachings, as well as the popular pastor of a Dallas megachurch, his work as the executive producer of the faith-inspired holiday film Black Nativity suggests that his decision to get into movies was, perhaps, misguided.   Clumsily placed song-and-dance interludes give the impression that there was a debate over whether or not the film would double as a musical -- and nobody won. As Jennifer Hudson walks the streets and sings about the struggles of single motherhood, some of the crowd spontaneously decide to act as backup performers, while others remain seated and appear oblivious to the musical number in front of them.   The story itself pulls no punches: A Baltimore teenager named Langston (Jacob Latimore) is sent to live with his estranged grandparents (Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett) when financial troubles leave his mother (Hudson) temporarily unable to provide for him. However, there is little doubt that the troubled family will right itself in the end with a little push from the Almighty. Hudson, as always, is a musical powerhouse; although the plot may be thin, she commands an attentive audience. Bassett has little to work with in the role of an adoring grandmother and wife, yet she communicates a genuine warmth and love of the Christian faith.   However, the film belongs to Langston and his grandfather, Rev. Cornell Cobbs, and thatís where it really goes wrong. Itís difficult to root for either character, as Langston is a mopey, sullen teen who, despite his implied intelligence, hatches two extraordinary stupid plans -- one to sell a priceless family heirloom, the other to stage a holdup -- in the hope of getting his family out of debt The reverend, who will doubtless straighten out this troubled youth, puts forth an air of cold self-righteousness that makes it easy to understand why his daughter went incommunicado as soon as she was old enough to leave. Of course, Rev. Cobbs abandons his gruff veneer to lead a lavish, Afro-inspired church production depicting the birth of Jesus Christ. Though Langston falls asleep during the service, the message comes to him in an elaborate dream sequence. Once awake, the pieces fall into place, the broken family come together, and the magic of the holidays is delivered to the surprise of absolutely no one. With that said, Black Nativity is a pleasant enough inspirational tale and more than suitable light family viewing during the holiday season.