The American Society of Magical Negroes explores race in America through satire, although some critics say the film doesn’t do its premise justice.
The fantastical comedy from first-time director, Kobi Libii, is inspired by the “Magical Negro” trope in movies and TV, where the Black character is there for window dressing to make the white protagonist look good.
The film centers on a secret society of magical Black folks tasked with identifying nervous white people and making them feel comfortable.
The film debuted over the weekend at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.
It had 13 reviews and a 46 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes as of Monday night. While some critics praised the Focus Features movie, the majority panned it.
Among the criticism, Robert Daniels of Rogerebert.com said the movie “lacks form, edge, politics, coherency.”
Devan Coggan of Entertainment Weekly wrote the movie “can’t decide whether to go full biting satire or charming rom-com,” adding that it “fails” at both.
Travis Hopson of Punch Drunk Critics added the film’s writer-director takes a “clever idea” and does “absolutely nothing with it.”
Although Catalina Combs of Black Girl Nerds said the movie is “empowering and begs us to talk about Blackness.”
Justice Smith leads the film’s cast as “Aren,” a young artist recruited into the secret Black society. David Alan Grier co-stars as Roger, Aren’s mentor in the society.
The cast also includes An-Li Bogan, Rupert Friend, Nicole Byer, Drew Tarver, Michaela Watkins, and Aisha Hinds.
The American Society of Magical Negroes will be released in theaters on March 22.
Watch the trailer below: