We usually get two or three Christmas or Christmas-themed movies a year. One of these is occasionally more a Jesus movie than a Santa/Family affair. If you were paranoid and cynical, you might suggest that the same string-pullers that demanded Hollywood produce pro-war movies during WWII to sell much needed war bonds are at it again here, this time pushing their religious agenda on unsuspecting movie-going folk. But I'm not paranoid and cynical. No. Not me.
When Naima (Hudson) is threatened with eviction in the run up to Christmas, she sends her teenage son Langston (Latimore) to New York to stay with her father, Reverend Cobbs (Whittaker) and mother (Bassett), whom she's estranged from since falling pregnant with Langston at fifteen. With Langston determined to get back to his mother, he endeavours to make up the five grand needed to keep a roof above their head by fair means or foul. This means hooking up with criminal Loot (Tyrese Gibson).
Hopeless stuff. Half drama, half musical, this adaptation of the Langston Hughes play is a cliché-ridden mess. However, the songs are so spaced out that it's a push to call this a musical, and its connection to the original 1960s play is a tentative one at best. Future developments are signposted in neon, like when Whittaker proudly shows a bored Latimore the pocket watch Martin Luther King gave to his father, you just know that the kid is going to have it on his toes later on. It's such a shame considering director Kasi Lemmons' last film was the solid Talk To Me.
The cast do their best with what's available. Hudson gives it socks in the three numbers she has, Bassett does her best broken-hearted mother routine and even Whittaker tries to belt out a few lines. However, while Jacob Latimore can sing he's only asked to have two states of being: sit and sulk or stand and sulk. During one joyous scene where everyone sings, young Latimore looks like he's about to either fall asleep or launch into a never-seen-before super sulk, a sulk that out-sulk every sulk that ever sulked. The movie ends before he's given the opportunity, which is a shame. It sounds like I'm putting the kid down but I'm genuinely impressed with the perma-sulk. Takes commitment, that.