It would have been understandable for a teenage newcomer like Atlanta-born Jacob Latimore to get smothered under the weight of such Hollywood star power in Kasi Lemmon’s Black Nativity, which stars Academy Award winners Forest Whitaker and Jennifer Hudson, Oscar-nominated icon Angela Bassett, Grammy-winning artists Mary J. Blige and Nas and features an urban sex symbol, singer-actor Tyrese Gibson.
But Latimore, who is charged with carrying the film as the adolescent malcontent Langston, not only rises to the challenge, he squeezes out room on the set for his incandescent personality to envelop the screen. He is the centerpiece of genius director-screenwriter Lemmons’ (Eve’s Bayou, Talk to Me) adaptation of the brilliant Langston Hughes’ legendary 1950s stage play.
The story of a Baltimore-born boy Langston (Latimore) who, because of economic tumult, is sent by his mother (played effectively by Hudson) to live with his grandparents (Whitaker and Bassett) in Harlem whom he has never even met, much less heard about. Rebelling against the claustrophobic, arch-conservative, religious household which is foreign to him — and which hosts haunting secrets — the young Langston is easily detoured toward the bright lights and dangers of the streets, where he eventually runs into Tyrese’s menacing shadowy character. But that is where the satisfying, entertaining journey to self-discovery commences.