Film Review: THE AMERICAN SOCIETY OF MAGICAL NEGROES (2024): Justice Smith and An-Li Bogan Shine in an Oddball but Intriguing Comedy with a Lot on its Mind SuperNayr

Justice Smith Plus Co The American Society Of Magical Negroes

The American Society of Magical Negroes Review

The American Society of Magical Negroes (2024) Film Review, a movie written and directed by Kobi Libii and starring Justice Smith, David Alan Grier, An-Li Bogan, Michaela Watkins, Drew Tarver, Aisha Hinds, Gillian Vigman, James E. Welsh, Mia Ford, Eric Lutz, Kees DeVos, Aaron Coleman, Chase Ryan Jeffery, Moe Irvin, Ethan Herisse, Nozipho Mclean, Isayas Theodros and Gregory James Cohan.

Kobi Libii’s film, The American Society of Magical Negroes, makes a statement that is probably impossible to make in a comedy such as this one. There’s not a lot in the zany premise that doesn’t demand a film of more depth but, at the same time, the lead performances by Justice Smith, David Alan Grier and, most of all, An-Li Bogan are immensely likable and, therefore, it’s not hard to be won over by the picture if you stick with it and if you don’t dwell on the overly ambitious basic premise too much. This movie is hurt by lofty ambitions but ultimately saved by good performances.

Justice Smith stars in the film as Aren, an artist whose unique work isn’t getting the attention it deserves. Early on, this character seems to be framed for taking a young dimwitted woman’s pocketbook as she forgets her credit card in the ATM and blame is placed upon Aren for the missing card. A man from the American Society of Magical Negroes arrives. His name is Roger and he’s played rather well by David Alan Grier. Roger takes Aren under his wing and shows him a world where Black people serve to make white people’s lives easier.

Aren works in an office and is surrounded by ambitious people such as himself. There’s Jason (Drew Tarver), Lizzie (the radiant An-Li Bogan) and their boss, played by Michaela Watkins. Jason and Aren soon compete for Lizzie’s affections as they both take a liking to her. Aren and Jason try to get along but Aren doesn’t really think Jason is as mature as Jason thinks he is. There’s a scene where Aren and Jason play a virtual game together and the conversation gets heavy and Jason doesn’t seem competent enough to handle it.

There are some lovely moments between Bogan and Smith as they walk together in a park and get to know one another. Bogan is a relatable actress whose Lizzie embodies values. Smith’s Aren is also all for enforcing key values and the two of them seem to be a potential romantic match.

Lizzie is working on a presentation at work and gets kudos from her superior but Jason has been selected as the presenter which makes Lizzie a bit upset. Lizzie is a hard worker and is deserving of more than what she is getting at her company. Aren seems to be dragged into everything at work, including this very presentation, for diversity issues being that he is Black and the story gets complicated from there.

The corporate office scenes work incredibly well and make the film soar above the average scenes that showcase members of the magical society referred to in the film’s title. Although the cast features some considerable talent such as the great Aisha Hinds, the movie is occasionally half-baked when it comes to delving into the issues it fearlessly tackles. As a result, sometimes, the picture falls on its face. Luckily, Grier picks up the pieces of this section of the movie, becoming a confidante to Aren and a friend. The bond between Aren and Roger is enjoyable to watch and this creates a likability factor for the movie that makes it interesting.

While it’s easy to understand that some of the movie pushes too far with its titular premise, the day is saved by the chemistry on-screen between Smith and Bogan. They light up the screen together and their bond is based upon mutual respect and key values. The characters hope if they work hard, they will achieve success but, as we all know, that’s not always the case. Drew Tarver also gives a solid performance as the guy who is competing with Aren for Lizzie’s affections. Tarver’s Jason doesn’t have the rounded beliefs that a well-educated guy should have and the main characters see right through him. When the movie finally arrives at the big presentation, there is a great scene where Smith’s Aren talks about his feelings and that sequence is emotionally satisfying.

As the love story is a tad pat, it’s not the most complex romance at the end of the day. More could have been done with the happy but inconclusive ending. But, the chemistry between the stars makes it a fun movie overall. There’s a tacked on “Society of Supportive Girlfriends” at the end that is definitely a cute touch and ends the film with a bang.

The American Society of Magical Negroes bit off more than it could chew but so has many recent films that still emerge as quality entertainment. I enjoyed the second half of director Libii’s film a lot but because the movie could have been more, it’s a very close call. The cast is surely the best part. An-Li Bogan is a gift to the movies and her presence lights up the screen at any given time she appears in the picture. Justice Smith is building quite an impressive resume and this role is serviceable to the actor’s considerable talents. David Alan Grier emerges unscathed from the movie as a truly respectable talent as well. Here’s a movie which still has a lot going for it despite its flaws.

Rating: 6.5/10

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