[Uptown Saturday Night] has no pretense of relevance whatsoever. It doesn't have a drop of blood, no obscenity, nudity or any of the other ingredients usually considered essential for a successful Black-oriented movie. What it does have is frivolity. The only real concern of the Uptown folks—aside from having a good time—is a winning $50,000 lottery ticket that has been stolen by a greedy gang….
Uptown Saturday Night is Poitier's most ambitious directorial assignment to date. After a dazzling debut with Buck and the Preacher and the rather soggy A Warm December, he has undertaken a highly complex endeavor full of crowd scenes, intricate effects and delicately timed dialogs, and brought them all together. I would hesitate to say he has accomplished a masterwork, however. He does evoke shining performances from most of the stars…. But Director Poitier fails to fully develop Calvin Lockhart, who seems to be imitating Belafonte imitating [Marlon] Brando. And Richard Pryor is just a bit too intense in his sequence, which is somewhat awkwardly staged and timed. There are several other flaws in Poitier's conception and execution, but the overall glory of Uptown Saturday Night still should not be challenged. To point out errors here would be tantamount to looking for lint in a shag rug. Poitier has now moved to the front of the Black directors' pantheon.
Maurice Peterson, "They're Just in for Laughs" (reprinted by permission of the author), in Essence, Vol. 5, No. 6, October, 1974, p. 16.