Crescent Gang Image

Crescent Gang

By Bobby LePire | June 1, 2023

Screenwriters Latasha Choe Johnson and B. Danielle Watkins drown their lighthearted drama, Crescent Gang, in sentimentality. Onyx Keesha and Gino Raphael Payne, the directors, keep the schmaltz high through tone and musical cues. Is this amount of emotional whimsy too much for audiences to bear, or does the film successfully tug on heartstrings?

Liberty (Mariah Tavares) is a little girl whose parents just died. Unfortunately, her loving grandpa lives in a nursing home and is too ill to care for her. So, Liberty goes to a foster home on Crescent Street, run by the frustrated Ms. K (Zenja Dunn). She also has taken in the social media-addicted Daisy (Natalya O. Hudson), her older sister Lailah (Mia Denae’ Brathwaite), the somewhat mean Carleigh (Olivia Kaiser), the youngest Kyle (Remy Payne), and the brainiac Haven (Valeria Camero). The next day, Ms. K stuns the kids with the news that she’s selling the house. This means this makeshift family will be broken up. This revelation also rocks Ms. K’s assistant Mr. Pierce (Quintin Adams). Due to a time capsule and a map, the children go all over Las Vegas, believing they can save their house.

All the while, Karina (Kira Marie) is moving up in this world. She’s recently left her state job as an attorney specializing in children’s welfare for a cushy gig at a high-powered firm focusing on divorce. But, upon hearing about the kids on Crescent Street, Karina starts questioning what she wants to do with her life. Can she save the kids’ home, or will they be split up forever?

“…Ms. K stuns the kids with the news that she’s selling the house.”

The story of Crescent Gang does not hold many surprises. The connection the titular group of kids shares with the lovely lawyer is pretty easy to figure out. The same can be said of the ending. The way things wrap up is telegraphed after the initial setup is over. Plus, there’s that whole sap dripping everywhere thing mentioned earlier. All forms of entertainment manipulate their respective audiences to feel a certain way. It takes skill to make that imperceptible. Keesha and Payne make every tug, tear, and warmth very known to all watching.

However, that does not mean the film is bad. For starters, while the manipulation tactics are obvious, the filmmakers use them effectively. Viewers will cheer or cry at the appropriate times, and the whole thing ends in an inspirational and sweet way. For all the predictability in the plot, the characters are well-developed and likable.

But the true saving grace of Crescent Gang is the cast. While a few of the one-sceners are only so-so, every major or supporting actor is splendid. Marie is charismatic, making the character’s indecisiveness compelling. Adams makes Mr. Pierce quite compassionate and interesting. Dunn is fun to hate. But surprisingly, the child actors do much of the heavy lifting. Tavares is fantastic as the quiet but determined Liberty. Hudson is an energetic goof in the best possible way. Camero is very funny as the deadpan smartypants. Brathwaite easily sells sisterly love, and Kaiser has a heartbreaking speech at the end.

Crescent Gang is very saccharine and predictable. But the characters are well-written, and the sweetness works when all is said and done. More importantly, the cast is remarkable. The adults are fine, but the kids steal the show, pouring their all into the roles. The film is worth seeing just for such good performances by so many young, aspiring actors.

For more information, visit the Crescent Gang Instagram page.

Crescent Gang (2023)

Directed: Onyx Keesha, Gino Raphael Payne

Written: Latasha Choe Johnson, B. Danielle Watkins

Starring: Kira Marie, Mariah Tavares, Natalya O. Hudson, Mia Denae' Brathwaite, Olivia Kaiser, Remy Payne, Valeria Camero, Quintin Adams, Zenja Dunn, etc.

Movie score: 7.5/10

Crescent Gang Image

"…the sweetness works when all is said and done. More importantly, the cast is remarkable."

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  1. Renée says:

    Great review, sounds like it’s a delightful movie. I can’t wait to watch it

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