Minnelli's first film has the theatricality he brought with him from Radio City and would be with him for his whole career, but it lacks much of the cinema. The movement, the actors' projection, the use of sets, it's all a bit too stiff. Furthermore, for all the promise of a film with an all-black cast, Cabin in the Sky eschews some stereotypes only to embrace others, and its morality tale relies on deeply dated misogyny. You can kind of see where Minnelli would go from here, but this is still a long way off even from the dynamics of his third film.
My full review is up at Spectrum Culture.