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The Boston Globe

Movies

Movie Review

Melodrama, but no miracles, in ‘Black Nativity’

Saying that Kasi Lemmons’s new movie, “Black Nativity,” is based on the 1961 Langston Hughes gospel play of the same title is like saying “Finding Nemo” is based on “Moby-Dick”: They’re both fish tales and there the matter ends.

Writer-director Lemmons, who made the much-praised “Eve’s Bayou” in 1997 and the terrific “Talk to Me” with Don Cheadle 10 years later, takes the idea of Hughes’s nativity story — a poetic and deeply spiritualized account of Christ’s birth, one production of which has been staged seasonally in Boston for almost half a century — and shoves it into the far background of a tritely told modern drama about family, faith, and redemption. The music’s great; it’s when the cast stops singing that the problems start.

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