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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
There are plenty of positive messages about the importance of faith, family, and forgiveness. The story focuses on the possibility of redemption and the need for unconditional love between parents and children. There's also a strong Christian message about the birth of Jesus and the importance of being able to repent and forgive. Langston Hughes' poetry, which is sung/recited throughout the movie, also offers thought-provoking messages about empowerment, overcoming life's difficulties, and the sadness of delaying dreams.
Positive Role Models
Reverend Cobbs proves that even men of God make mistakes and require forgiveness. Langston learns the truth of his birth, the story behind his mother's separation from her parents, and the necessity of reconnecting with your roots. Even though he makes mistakes -- including stealing from his grandfather -- he ultimately brings his family together. Naima wants to keep her son safe, and Mrs. Cobbs wants to get to know her grandson for the first time.
Violence & Scariness
A minor takes a gun he's about to (illegally) buy and tries to hold up a pawn shop. A police officer holds a gun up to the underage suspect but lets the young guy go with just a warning. A teenager is arrested when he's caught holding a man's wallet (that he was actually trying to return). He stays in jail and nearly gets into a fight with a man.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A young couple embraces and holds hands. Adults make references to a teen pregnancy.
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Language/insults includes "damn," "hell," "punk," "Lunch Money," "no good," etc.
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Products & Purchases
Peter Pan bus lines; a Cadillac; Samsung, Starbucks, Hyundai, and various storefronts along 125th Street in Harlem.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that the musical Black Nativity is a modernization of Langston Hughes' 1961 play of the same name with a gospel twist. There's nothing particularly alarming for younger kids, but there are a couple of scenes when a young man has skirmishes with the law (he's mistakenly arrested for pickpocketing when he was just trying to return the wallet) and later tries to rob a pawnshop at gunpoint. Hughes' poetry is recited (or sung) throughout the movie, as are traditional gospel songs. The story of Jesus' birth becomes the driving force for an estranged family's reunion in this holiday musical. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Families that celebrate Christmas and appreciate gospel music are in for a feel-good treat in Black Nativity. Featuring a mix of gospel and Christmas music, the film is a touching modernization of the nativity tale within a prodigal-child framing story. Hudson's voice is far superior to everyone else's in the movie -- with the exception of fellow professional R&B singer Mary J. Blige as a Christmas pageant angel and Hudson's impressive on-screen son Latimore. Whitaker's voice isn't on the same level, but he makes up for it with his performances as a well-known Harlem preacher who can't figure out how to reconcile with his uncommunicative daughter.
Parents who attend the movie with their children should take full advantage of the many references to Hughes' poems like "Dream Deferred" and traditional spirituals like "Motherless Child." In addition to being a Christmas story, the movie provides a context for the historical importance of Harlem to African Americans as well as references to the civil rights movement. This is not a perfect movie: parts are a bit too convenient to believe and others are overly sentimental, but those flaws can be forgiven considering it's a holiday film. The Christmas musical will appeal foremost to gospel lovers and practicing Christians, but anyone who sees it should appreciate the vocals and the family-first message.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.