For a feel-good family movie this holiday season, consider checking out Black Nativity based on Langston Hughes’ play of the same name.

Starring Jennifer Hudson, Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett and rising star Jacob Latimore, this musical drama follows a single mama who has no choice but to send her son to stay with her parents over Christmas when she gets an eviction notice.

Like many families, emotions run high at this unexpected change of events. Tempers flare and heads butt. Langston, played brilliantly with teen angst by Latimore, is furious at having to switch gears so last minute. He doesn’t know his grandparents and is less than thrilled to get on a bus – alone – headed for Harlem.

Things don’t improve when, moments after his arrival, his back pack gets stolen. After going to a fancy hotel in search of a phone, a guest confuses him for a thief and has him arrested. Things go from bad to worse when his grandfather, a stoic pastor, is less than thrilled with his unexpected, deadbeat grandson, arriving on the scene.

Not only does Grandpa have to acquaint himself with a kid he doesn’t know, he’s embarrassed. As a pastor, this mess won’t reflect well on his reputation. Plus, gossip aside, he’s knee-deep in preparations for his Christmas nativity show and doesn’t have time to rehearse for a new role – that of a grandfather.

Still, the show must go on – both for the pastor’s upcoming pageant as well as Langston’s life.

Infused with music, including guest performances by Mary J. Blige, the movie remains interesting both script wise and visually. Hudson, as usual, sings like the many angels we see on screen. Basset does not disappoint with her warm on screen presence. She delivers strong, heartwarming performances which bounce nicely off of Whitaker’s stoic energy.

NOTE: Given that it’s a “musical” be prepared: It has that “Glee”-inspired/over-the-top/big LOUD thing that will likely offend stanch traditionalists. For those of you conservative film goers out there, stick to It’s A Wonderful Life. But for those wanting something a little fresher, Black Nativity is original enough to remain fresh.

As some of you film buffs already know, this story is not a new one. Originally an off-Broadway play from 1961, Langston’s show made headlines with its unique retelling of the classic Nativity story with an entirely black cast. It has since been performed live in Seattle since 1998.

In the live version and the movie, traditional Christmas carols are sung in gospel style. A few new songs were written just for the movie. Like the theatrical version, the most dramatic scene of the movie takes place at the end of the film with the birth of baby Jesus.

Standing out from other holiday movies this season, Black Nativity remains first and foremost a Christmas movie – emphasis on Christ.  Remaining edgy but grounded in Truth, this story touches on the true story of the Gospel: redemption. If Christ can die and rise on a cross, so true can the circumstances of this family’s life. Forgiveness, grace, and transformation – it’s all here.

Except for a few moderately violent scenes and minor profanities (“Shut up” and fight scenes) this movie, according to Motion Picture Ratings, is PG. You can see more details here.             

This is a movie that one can bring their whole family to this holiday season. (This does not include the violence that might ensue if you insist a musical-despising family member watch this film with you. Don’t say the good folks at Believe didn’t warn you.)

Andrea’s Blog Look for more of Andrea’s posts on her blog which publishes Monday, Wednesday and Fridays!

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