Director: Bryan Barber
Starring: AndrÃ© Benjamin, Big Boi (as Antwan A. Patton), Terrence Howard, Faizon Love, Cicely Tyson, Macy Gray, Ben Vereen, Patti LaBelle, Ving Rhames
Idlewild didn’t suck, but it was a disappointment. “I’m going to see the new Outkast musical” earned me some skeptical looks the afternoon before the screening. My reply was, “Hey, if it turns out the story and acting suck, it’s still a musical by Outkast — fusing hip-hop with ’30s jazz. So the music and the production numbers will make it worthwhile.”
I was wrong. The lackluster story and acting were all right, but not enough to keep the screening audience — imported by the local urban/hip-hop radio station — interested. And the musical aspect was a crushing disappointment. Who would’ve thought Outkast would fail to deliver enough music in their cinema debut? Worse, the first real production number — and three songs total, by my count — were lifted off their previous album, the enormous smash (from 2003!) “Speakerboxx/The Love Below.”
The production numbers were barely worthy of the name, and looked low-budget and half-assed. The plot was predictable and morose. Much as in their musical output, Outkast duo Andre 3000 and Big Boi (credited for the film by their real names, Andre Benjamin and Antwan Patton) pursue largely separate plot lines, and nothing in the film ever catches on fire or generates much enthusiasm, on screen or in the audience.
Most frustrating, paradoxically, are the brief flashes of brilliance: a catchy new song, relative newcomer Paula Patton as Benjamin’s love interest, and particularly flashes of directorial life — animated musical notes that dance off the page, a talking hip flask, flashy, stylistic camera work — that serve to remind the viewer of how much better a movie this should have been.
The new album, released in conjunction with the film, is pretty decent, though.