Metascore
48

Mixed or average reviews - based on 29 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 8 out of 29
  2. Negative: 4 out of 29
  1. Reviewed by: Mary Houlihan
    Nov 26, 2013
    75
    Lemmons and her cast, aided by some great music, have created an interlude sure to lift the spirit during the holiday season.
  2. Reviewed by: Eric D. Snider
    Nov 27, 2013
    68
    While the film certainly targets a particular audiences, those viewers who don’t fall squarely into that demographic should nevertheless find the film pleasant enough, its pastoral ambitions compensating for its lack of finesse.
  3. Reviewed by: Mark Jenkins
    Dec 2, 2013
    65
    Like "Eve's Bayou," her best-known movie, Kasi Lemmons' Black Nativity presents a child's view of a troubled family. The latter film is sweeter and slenderer, but that's only to be expected.
  4. Reviewed by: Steven Rea
    Nov 27, 2013
    63
    Black Nativity offers a whopping serving of Yuletide emotion. And it's a musical - with plenty of wailing and rapping on the side.
  5. Reviewed by: Ann Hornaday
    Nov 27, 2013
    63
    Sensory pleasures abound in Black Nativity, which is grounded by Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett’s performances as Langston’s strict, God-fearing grandparents.
  6. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    Nov 26, 2013
    63
    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.
  7. Reviewed by: Michael Phillips
    Nov 26, 2013
    63
    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.
  8. 63
    Modestly entertaining and uplifting version of a “greatest story” that has proven as malleable as it is timeless.
  9. Reviewed by: Ken McIntyre
    Dec 9, 2013
    60
    The well-worn platitudes and pained moralising are a bit much, but the music is tremendous.
  10. Reviewed by: Tasha Robinson
    Nov 27, 2013
    60
    While Black Nativity often lacks polish and restraint, at least it never lacks for soul.
  11. Reviewed by: Manohla Dargis
    Nov 26, 2013
    60
    Ms. Lemmons has a tough time finding her tone. From scene to scene, the actors are good and then less so, while the direction wavers from assured to unsteady.
  12. Reviewed by: Keith Uhlich
    Nov 26, 2013
    60
    Though Lemmons’s parable-like intentions are clear, almost every beat of Langston’s tale, with its absent father figures and heated gun-pointing melodrama, rings false — hardly a fitting contemporary complement to the Greatest Story Ever Told.
  13. Reviewed by: Bilge Ebiri
    Nov 26, 2013
    60
    It doesn’t always work as drama, but as a musical, it’s often fantastic.
  14. Reviewed by: Bill Goodykoontz
    Nov 26, 2013
    60
    The singing is terrific, particularly whenever Hudson belts out a number (and there is really no other way to describe her powerhouse vocals). But the story is trite and predictable, if heartfelt.
  15. Reviewed by: Justin Chang
    Nov 25, 2013
    60
    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.
  16. Reviewed by: Lou Lumenick
    Nov 26, 2013
    50
    A family-friendly, Hallmark Channel-ready musical dramatic fable whose plot more closely resembles Spike Lee’s “Red Hook Summer.’’
  17. Reviewed by: Mick LaSalle
    Nov 26, 2013
    50
    Black Nativity is a just-OK feature film that, as an hour-long television special, could have had the makings of a classic.
  18. Reviewed by: Kevin C. Johnson
    Nov 26, 2013
    50
    Count Black Nativity as a more noble than notable effort.
  19. Reviewed by: Chris Nashawaty
    Nov 26, 2013
    50
    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.
  20. Reviewed by: Stephen Farber
    Nov 26, 2013
    50
    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.
  21. Reviewed by: Eric Henderson
    Nov 25, 2013
    50
    For anyone who prefers their assertive homilies to crust over like a syrupy sweet, this loose adaptation of Langston Hughes's beloved holiday tradition will come on like a dream fulfilled.
  22. Reviewed by: Mike McCahill
    Dec 9, 2013
    40
    Beneath middling songs – walloped out in the artless, post-Cowell manner – there's something faintly touching about its vision of broken homes.
  23. Reviewed by: James White
    Dec 2, 2013
    40
    Despite the odd rip-roaring tune and some sturdy performances, this yuletide tale is as memorable as last year's sprouts.
  24. Reviewed by: Betsy Sharkey
    Nov 26, 2013
    40
    Many of the transitions between narrative and music are rough. The temptations of the street, all too real in the real world, feel forced. Confrontations become clichés. The substance of human motivation is missing. And thus the heart never beats as it should.
  25. Reviewed by: Elizabeth Weitzman
    Nov 26, 2013
    40
    The movie doesn’t weave religion into the familiar structure of a comedy or melodrama. Instead, everything works in service to the sermon at the core. For most audience members, that will either be the primary draw or an inescapable drawback.
  26. Reviewed by: Steve Davis
    Nov 27, 2013
    30
    By the time the chorus of churchgoers end the film with a spirited rendition of Stevie Wonder’s rousing “As” following a demonstration of the healing power of forgiveness, you’re ready for a closing number. Hallelujah.
  27. Reviewed by: Ignatiy Vishnevetsky
    Nov 27, 2013
    25
    Black Nativity is a cut-rate musical melodrama that grafts overreaching references to black culture onto a facile family-values narrative.
  28. Reviewed by: Marc Mohan
    Nov 25, 2013
    25
    Directed as if it were an after-school special, with listless performances and musical numbers (Mary J. Blige shows up as a platinum-wigged congregant), Black Nativity is as simple and condescending as Hughes' work was complex and demanding.
  29. Reviewed by: Tim Robey
    Dec 5, 2013
    20
    It’s a misguided enterprise all round, and while it’s perfectly possible to applaud everything the film wants to say, you find yourself cringing at the ways it’s saying it.
User Score
5.9

Mixed or average reviews- based on 7 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 1 out of 2
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 2
  3. Negative: 1 out of 2
  1. Dec 9, 2013
    3
    This was low B grade movie. There were stellar performances from Vondie Curtis Hall, Tyrese Gibson, Luke James, Grace Gibson and Mary J.This was low B grade movie. There were stellar performances from Vondie Curtis Hall, Tyrese Gibson, Luke James, Grace Gibson and Mary J. Blige. Otherwise the sentimentality at times became so cloying and contrived. Jennifer Hudson made merely cameo appearances in the movie and howled violently through all her singing lines. Some guys down in the front row began to openly mock her which caused other movie goers to let out a few chuckles they had been holding in. The kids I took with me were enjoying it so I stayed for the whole movie but wanted to leave. I was curious how they would weave Langston Hughes's Black Nativity story into the movie itself but it was barely spoken about except for a brief showing mid movie. Overall I got the impression that this movie was merely a vehicle for Jacob Latimore who sang his parts very well. I found it hard to empathise with his character though. I kept hoping that he'd get caught, shot or arrested so that we could finally get past his dredged up problems to the Nativity. Full Review »
  2. Nov 27, 2013
    7
    That sentiment pretty much sums up Black Nativity: ungainly in execution, yet still infused with enough passion and reverence for Hughes’That sentiment pretty much sums up Black Nativity: ungainly in execution, yet still infused with enough passion and reverence for Hughes’ original work to be more success than failure. Moviegoers looking for seasonal entertainment that is accessible and family-friendly (without also being treacly and/or bland) this is a Christmas show that you might want to check out. Full Review »