Kobi Libii’s “The American Society of Magical Negroes” Falls Short of Its Potential

Kobi Libii’s feature debut, *The American Society of Magical Negroes*, delves into the problematic “Magical Negro” trope in filmmaking, where Black characters exist solely to support white protagonists with folksy wisdom and undefined supernatural powers. While the premise holds promise for a satire exploring race and representation, the film ultimately fails to fully grapple with the complex ideas it raises.
 Plot Overview
Justice Smith stars as Aren, a young artist whose defining traits are his love for shapeless yarn sculptures and his perpetual fear of taking up space. After a failed art showing, he encounters a drunk white woman who accuses him of theft. This encounter leads him to Roger (David Alan Grier), who introduces Aren to a secret society of Black people whose purpose is to placate uncomfortable white individuals to prevent violence and save Black lives.
 Themes and Execution
The film attempts to blend satire with a rom-com plot as Aren navigates his first assignment helping a clueless white man named Jason (Drew Tarver) at a tech startup. However, the mystical and satirical elements of the secret society clash with the bland rom-com storyline, and the film fails to commit to either genre. Despite the potential for world-building, the society’s lore remains underdeveloped, and Aren lacks depth beyond his obsession with yarn and his tendency to apologize excessively.
 Performances and Humor
While there are some solid jokes and moments of humor, particularly in parodies of well-known films perpetuating the Magical Negro trope, the film struggles to find its footing. Justice Smith delivers a standout performance, but the characters mostly speak in general platitudes about race and love, lacking depth and complexity.
Conclusion
*The American Society of Magical Negroes* falls short of its potential, unable to fully explore its intriguing premise or effectively blend satire with rom-com elements. Despite moments of humor and strong performances, the film’s indecision between biting satire and charming romance ultimately undermines its impact.

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