There is a review of the American Society ofMagical Negroes

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NEGATIVE
CNN —Built atop a provocative-sounding title and premise, “The American Society of Magical Negroes” starts and ends quite well.
Almost everything in between, alas, proves uneven and inert in a way that dilutes its satirical punch, making this an interesting introduction for first-time writer-director Kobi Libii but a less than satisfying one.
Like “American Fiction,” the basic concept hinges on the way Black people are seen – and especially depicted in various forms of media – by a white-dominated culture.
The “magical negro” refers, as the director’s statement explains, to “a narrative device in which a Black supporting character exists solely to serve a white protagonist’s storyline.”Plenty of movies and TV through the years have fallen into that dubious basket, and Libii might have been better served by weaving in clips (assuming the budget would have allowed for that) instead of satirically replicating them, which is the approach employed here.
Still, the film gets off to a reasonably good start as Aren (Justice Smith), a struggling artist, is recruited to join the secret society by one of its members, Roger (David Alan Grier, easily the movie’s strongest asset), who observes his awkward demeanor toward Whites at an art-gallery event.
As Roger explains it, the shadowy society provides “client services” for white people in need of some sort of emotional support, because “white discomfort” represents an enduring danger to Black people.
Gifted with semi-magical powers to assist in their tasks, the operatives proceed from a playbook that includes making themselves “acceptable to Whites” while still managing to seem authentically Black.
THE AMERICAN SOCIETY OF MAGICAL NEGROES – Official Trailer [HD] – Only In Theaters March 15After his rapid orientation, though, Aren quickly embarks on an assignment that involves becoming the helpful pal of Jason (“The Other Two’s” Drew Tarver), an employee at a very-Facebook-like social-media firm called Meetbox, who wants to rise within the company’s ranks and realizes that he has a crush on Lizzie (An-Li Bogan), one of his coworkers.
Unfortunately, Aren feels the same way about her, plaguing him with conflicted feelings as he endeavors to fulfill his mission.
While Libii appears to be going for natural and relaxed in the performances and interactions, there’s a flatness to much of what transpires.
And while Smith has experience playing against fantastical situations (see “Detective Pikachu”), the character and the key rom-com component remain too thinly drawn through much of the film.
The ending nearly redeems that, but not entirely, or at least, not enough to endorse this as a theatrical experience as opposed to the “Whenever I find it streaming somewhere” option.
That’s too bad, since the core issue, and relegating people of color to secondary roles, resonates in a way that’s both timely and timeless, in everything from movies to the “Black best friend” trope in sitcoms.
Principally known as an actor, Libii found a way to get this ambitious project made, which itself feels like an accomplishment for a new director.
Mostly, though, “The American Society of Magical Negroes” demonstrates that truly nailing this kind of satire requires a deft, if not magical, touch.
“The American Society of Magical Negroes” premieres March 15 in US theaters.
It’s rated PG-13.

CNN –.

Based on an intriguing premise and title, “The American Society of Magical Negroes” has a strong beginning and conclusion. Unfortunately, almost all of the middle ground turns out to be uneven and inert to the point where it loses much of its satirical punch. Despite being an interesting start for writer-director Kobi Libii, this is a less than rewarding film.

The fundamental idea is based on how a white-dominated society views Black people, particularly as they are portrayed in media, much like in “American Fiction.”. As stated in the director’s statement, the term “magical negro” describes “a narrative device in which a Black supporting character exists solely to serve a White protagonist’s storyline.”. “.

A great deal of films and television shows over the years have been lumped into that questionable category, and Libii would have been better off incorporating clips (if funding had permitted it) rather than parodying them, as is the case in this instance.

Nevertheless, the film starts off fairly well when one of the secret society’s members, Roger (David Alan Grier, easily the best part of the picture), approaches Aren (Justice Smith), a struggling artist, and asks him to join after noticing his awkward behavior toward White people at an art gallery event.

According to Roger, “white discomfort” is a persistent threat to Black people, which is why the shadowy society offers “client services” to white people in need of emotional support. With the aid of semi-magical abilities, the operatives carry out their tasks according to a predetermined plan, which includes appearing to be Black while still managing to be “acceptable to Whites.”.

Official Trailer [HD] for THE AMERICAN SOCIETY OF MAGICAL NEGROES – Exclusively in theaters March 15.

Despite his quick orientation, Aren soon finds himself working on an assignment that involves becoming the supportive friend of Jason (“The Other Two’s”) Drew Tarver, a worker at Meetbox, a social media company that looks a lot like Facebook. Jason wants to advance in the company and discovers that he has a thing for one of his coworkers, Lizzie (An-Li Bogan). Aren, regrettably, has mixed emotions for her as well, which hinders him from completing his task.

There’s a flatness to a lot of what happens, even though Libii seems to be aiming for natural and easygoing performances and interactions. Additionally, despite Smith’s prior experience playing against fanciful scenarios (see “Detective Pikachu”), the character and the main rom-com element are too weakly developed for the majority of the movie.

The conclusion comes close to making up for it, but not quite enough to recommend seeing this as a theatrical production rather than choosing to watch it “Whenever I find it streaming somewhere.”.

Unfortunately, this is true because the fundamental problem of casting people of color in supporting roles and making them feel out of time is present in a variety of media, including sitcoms and movies, as well as the “Black best friend” cliché.

Primarily recognized for her acting skills, Libii managed to bring this large-scale project to life, which feels like a significant achievement for a debut director. But mostly, “The American Society of Magical Negroes” shows that a deft, if not magical, touch is needed to pull off this kind of satire.

On March 15, “The American Society of Magical Negroes” opens in US theaters. It has a PG-13 rating.

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