Derrick Dunn

Derrick Dunn

The American Society of Magical Negroes fails to conjure up enjoyment

After getting his feet wet in the world of acting, Kobi Libii makes his feature writing and directing debut with “The American Society of Magical Negroes” from Focus Features. Struggling bi-racial artist Aren (Justice Smith) crosses paths with bartender Roger (David Alan Grier) at his latest art show, who sees some potential in Aren and informs him that he is a member of The American Society of Magical Negroes, a group aiming to safeguard African Americans by appeasing White individuals.

After a successful field run, Aren is taking on his first assignment. He assists Jason (Drew Tarver), a white male employee at Meetbox, a social media platform. Jason is socially awake and needs guidance to boost his career and love life. Aren is determined to do everything he can to help Jason overcome his challenges. However, things turn unexpectedly when Aren falls for Lizzie (An-Li Bogan), a co-worker at Meetbox. Lizzie is a charming and beautiful woman with whom Aren shares common interests and values. Despite Aren’s growing feelings for Lizzie, Roger warns him that He must focus on his mission to help Jason and not let his personal life interfere with his work or there will be, or the consequences for society.

Upon the trailer’s release, the audience expressed outrage and curiosity regarding the direction of the forthcoming film. The film’s title alone was deemed off-putting, and the trailer conveyed an impression that the film would be unnecessarily dramatic. Notwithstanding, to remain impartial, I gave the film a fair chance and approached it with an open mind. Regrettably, the film falls short of expectations due to the director’s overly ambitious objectives. However, the director deserves credit for commencing the film on a promising note by establishing Aren’s arc. Justice Smith, who made his headlining debut with the Netflix series “The Get Down,” has continually exhibited the talent to embody a contemporary everyman persona. In this film, he exudes the characteristics of someone we can all relate to, who is unaware of his own strength and natural abilities.

The initial scenes featuring Smith and Grier are some of the film’s most memorable moments, and the two actors complement each other as mentors and mentees. Smith’s scenes with Lizzie, a newcomer, are equally commendable, and their believable meet-cute carries throughout the film. However, the same praise cannot be extended to Drew Tarver’s character, Jason, who is simply unlikable. Furthermore, Kobi Libii’s direction appears inconsistent regarding the film’s themes and overall tone.

The scenes focusing on society should have been the film’s main focus, relegating the Lizzie/Jason storyline to a secondary plot. The director’s objectives were overly ambitious, and the final product failed to meet expectations. The film attempted to achieve too much and should have been divided into two movies or a series.

Final Grade: C-

“The American Society of Magical Negroes” is in theaters now and available to rent on numerous platforms.

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