Harlem Aria Hits Sour Note
Apparent Soloist knockoff actually from 1999, where it should stay
By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 5, 2010 12:35 PM CST

(Newser) Harlem Aria hit the festival circuit in 1999, and contemporary critics are baffled by the timing of the release of the uneven story of a developmentally disabled young black man with a heart and voice of gold:

  • The performances and William Jennings' direction are "no more than adequate," V.A. Musetto writes in the New York Post, and Jennings' script is "laughably inadequate." Furthermore, "Congress should look into" the fact that the film is being released now.

  • Andrew Schenker of the Village Voice gives credit to Damon Wayans, who "is in good vulgar form, cracking jokes about performing cunnilingus on Angela Lansbury" as a street hustler. But in the end, he writes, "black and white (far too) easily come together."
  • Wayans "wildly upstages" his fellow actors with "little effort" and "dated" jokes, writes Robert Koehler in Variety. But that doesn't make up for Gabriel Casseus' turn as the hero tenor Anton, which is "a source of distraction," or the other principal, Christian Camargo, who "flatlines." Incidentally, Koehler's review was written in 2003.
  • Yuck, writes Aaron Hillis of Time Out New York. Anton is "one of the least believable, most saccharine images of mental retardation ever put on film." And, amazingly, the "inanely convoluted, wanna-be urban fable now looks like a straight-to-video knockoff of The Soloist."