Monday, August 14, 2006
Director: Bryan Barber
Fien Print Rating (Out of 100): 57
In a Nutshell: You can't accuse Big Boi and Andre 3000 (Outkast, to any spectacularly out-of-touch readers) of taking the easy way out with their first big screen pairing. "Idlewild" is a sprawling mess of a movie, a pell-mell assault of visual and thematic ideas so complicated to process that it isn't hard to figure out why the movie has been sitting on the shelf for around a year. On one hand, writer-director Bryan Barber throws up a basic scenario -- two friends, one withdrawn and one flamboyant, deal with gangsters and musicians at an anachronistic speakeasy in 1930s Georgia -- so banal that the film lags in for long spells. To combat that morass, Barber goes with a restless visual style that includes animated sequences, black-and-white pictures that come to life, slow motion to showcase dancing and accelerated motion to facilitate comedy. It's also a musical, not that anybody ever settled on what kind of musical it is. Occasionally the characters break into song in private moments, lip-synching along. Occasionally the songs are showcased in performances at the central club. Occasionally the songs just play over the top, explaining the emotions of the scene. Some of the songs are modeled after jazz and blues standards of the period, but most of them are simply Outkast-style romps, complete with profane lyrics and references that are (and here's the word of the day again) anachronistic. Big Boi and Dre sing songs in the movie, which makes sense, but then there's confusion of a leading lady (the lovely Paula Patton) who has songs, but doesn't do her own singing, mixed with the presence of Patti LaBelle and Ben Vereen who are on hand to act, but not sing. The Outkast guys are fine when they're on stage working the crowd, but neither is a compelling leading man (Andre Benjamin has been fine in supporting performances in other films). Put opposite pros like Terrence Howard or Ving Rhames and you forget the leads are there are all. "Idlewild" is a movie that shouldn't be dismissed and will probably be overpraised in some circles for its audacity, but aspirations don't equal results in this case.
A review will be up on Zap2it on or around Aug. 25.