Rated: R for strong sexual content, graphic violence, and adult language.
Genre: Musical Drama Romance Crime Gangster Thriller
Directed By: Bryan Barber
Running Time: 2:00
Review by: Felix Vasquez Jr.
Review Date: 7/09/07
Special Features:
Deleted Scenes plus a Deleted Song
Outkast Music Videos
"Morris Brown" - Big Boi
"Idlewild Blue" - André 3000

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Bryan Barber’s “Idlewild” is Outkast’s own twist on “The Cotton Club,” a film set during the depression era that puts to good use some of the best African American actors, while also paying tribute to the music artists of that time. With a semi-modern twist, Outkast’s original music, and a taste of style, “Idlewild” is an original and surreal glimpse into the prohibition era. One of the appealing aspects of this film is that the duo of Outkast set their film down in the early nineteen hundreds and keeps their film a musical, and a musical filled with entertaining numbers. Though it’s not a masterpiece, it’s still a film I enjoyed, and one I was looking forward to for a long time. Outkast is one of the rare hip hop bands I actually enjoy, for the simple fact that their music almost surpasses the tag of their genre.

Andre Benjamin is a wonderful singer and musician who also has the bravado, near understated brilliance, and showmanship that folks like Jimi Hendrix once had; take for example the wonderful closing number, and you’ll bear witness why Benjamin has the potential to break out as a legend if he tries hard enough. Even when it becomes apparent he’s not the greatest actor, he still carries a presence that helps the audience to ignore his faults. The man is interesting as the down on his luck piano player.  

Subservient to his father, meek, and often times just plain shy, he carries his suppressed charisma into his music, and the night club he works in. His partner Rooster, is played to equal competence by Big Boi, who is entertaining as a character on the opposite spectrum of morals and life paths. While Percival is off pursuing his music, Rooster is tangling with the mafia and inevitably will pay for his seedy dealings. Paula Patton is memorable as Percival’s love interest Angel, and she manages to make her rather small character and make her stand out quite well. “Idlewild” is clearly just a vehicle for the hip hop duo, but it’s one that seems to try its best to stand out from the rest, in spite of the numerous anachronisms. But all of the faults are basically forgiven when it breaks into dance numbers, and that’s when Barber’s film comes alive, and the energy is infectious. The choreography is fantastic, the pacing is lively, and the music is just toe tapping energetic.

I had a lot of high hopes for “Idlewild,” because it was different, and looked rather entertaining, and in the end, I just wasn’t satisfied. Barber just goes for all the typical storylines here, with a rather abrupt screeching halt nearing the second half in which the film just seems to slow down completely. “Idlewild” is sadly about twenty minutes too long, and would have sufficed with a very good edit in the end. Within the film, there are just so many plot twists that you could see coming a mile away, and the clichés are almost endless. The romance with Angel and Percival is rather mild, and never as passionate as it can be, while their relationship is too superficial to really involve ourselves in, along with Rooster, who is possibly the most ill-conceived character in the bunch, while Terrence Howard's villain is under used and also rather ill-conceived.

What was actually Rooster's intention with the mob he dealt with, and why did he forget it once he inherited the club? And we’re introduced to many hokey plot devices like a bible that happens to save the life of Rooster during a gun fight, his coming across an old woman on the side of a road, and the tragiclimax that’s telegraphed halfway into the story. Barber just continues going over material we’ve seen recycled millions of times, along with introducing sub-plots that are just unresolved. Did Rooster ever get out of crime? How did he gain such wealth in the climax? Didn’t Percival ever blame him for what happened in the ending? What ever happened to Percival’s father? And what did the talking flask even represent? “Idlewild” is two hours long and still ends up feeling incomplete and unresolved by the time the credits roll. And you just get the impression Barber was more concerned with the bells and whistles and not the actual story.

Though not as good as I hoped it would be, it’s still an above par musical effort in the end. Outkast is still a great band, and I applaud them for going for a neo-noirish depression era setting with an actual story, but still, it was cliché, predictable, and void of any dimensional characters. And barely any musical numbers? What a waste of an opportunity.



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