Sunday, August 27, 2006

"Idlewild"


When asked why he and musical mate Andre 3000 wanted to make the movie "Idlewild," Antwan "Big Boi" Patton answered with one word: "wardrobe."

Well, they are indeed two sharp-dressed men in this flick, but their director, music-video man Bryan Singer, should have considered at least two more, namely "story" and "music," neither of which make much of an appearance in this disappointment.

What little story there is is cribbed directly from "Harlem Nights" and "Under the Cherry Moon" (note to OutKast: Look at what's happened to his Purple Majesty since that flameout - is this really the career arc you want?) In "Idlewild," Big Boi is the main entertainer at a nightclub called the Church. He takes control of the club and has to fight to protect it from gangster (not gangsta) Terrence Howard. Andre is on hand as the piano man, and pretty Paula Patton is the aspiring singer who catches his eye.

"Idlewild" doesn't manage to add anything new to this tired template, and the story in fact goes practically nowhere at all. I would have forgiven all that, however, if the music had carried the day. Alas, that's far from the case here.

After seeing Broadway (and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer") veteran Hinton Battle's name in the opening credits as choreographer, I was expecting some rousing, grand-scale musical numbers. And the club does come to life early, with Big Boi performing a song from "Speakerboxxx" and the flappers taking to the floor. He takes the stage in "Idlewild," however, exactly one more time, so enjoy it while it lasts.

Andre, amazingly, does even less singing until the final credits roll. His main number is "She Lives in My Lap," sung to a corpse. It's just as creepy as it sounds here.

There are hardly any new songs in "Idlewild," which is all the more shameful because the accompanying soundtrack contains some instant OutKast classics. I predict Big Boi's "Morris Brown" will be bouncing from car stereo speakers for many, many months to come. Why the lack of new music? I can only guess it's because this movie was finished so long ago, and sat on the shelf for so long, that most of the soundtrack cuts were recorded after the fact.

It's not all bad, however. Terrence Howard admitted to an interviewer that he rushed onto the set of this one after wrapping "Hustle and Flow" without even reading the script first. But even if he was coasting in this flick, he is truly menacing as the "Idlewild" heavy. I can say without exaggeration that every time I see him act I think of a young Marlon Brando, high praise indeed.

In the opening credits of "Idlewild," I also noted that OutKast the actors were credited as "Antwan Patton and Andre Benjamin," while as music supervisors they were credited as "Big Boi and Andre 3000." If only they could have reconciled these dual personalities and filled "Idlewild" with more music and less melodrama, it would have been a much more satisfying flick.

10 comments:

Sadie Lou said...

Terrence Howard was the main reason I wanted to see this film and then Outkast, second. I'm so glad I read this review! I was a little hesitant to get excited because so often, these "concept video/movies" fall flat and it looks like idlewild didn't break any new ground.
I was also looking forward to the big dance numbers and it looks like this movie delivered that to the viewer, twice?
You were robbed! I'll definately add this to my Netflix que but I won't be rushing to grab myself a front row seat.
:(

Reel Fanatic said...

Netflix is the best I can recommend it for, Sadie ... That way you can fast-forward to the music!

themarina said...

Oh boy. And here I was expecting this to be great fun and entertainment. I guess I'll add it to the rental list. Thanks for the warning!

Reel Fanatic said...

If you asked me at the beginning of the year, Marina, I definitely would have put this one in my top 10 most antipicated movies, so it truly was a big disappointment

Joanne said...

Ooh thanks for the warning about Idlewild. I thought it looked really fun and good kind. I was excited to see the music and dancing and thinking it would be like Moulin Rouge except for the 20's. So now that I know it won't have those, I won't bother seeing it.

Neel Mehta said...

Well, this was one of my 10 most anticipated movies of the year -- it was 3rd. I liked it because I thought the visuals and music delivered, and it was more cohesive than I expected. I am afraid that I raised your expectations, though.

Reviews have been all over the place. I read one reviewer who was mostly angry because he felt Cicely Tyson was wasted. I mean, come on!

Finally, it's Bryan Barber. Awesome typo -- I'd love to see what Bryan Singer could do with Outkast.

Reel Fanatic said...

My bad, Neel .. It truly would be fascinating to see what Singer would do if he met OutKast .. it was probably a Freudian slip on my part!

Ekko said...

you're right. the movie sucks and want those 2 hours of my life back.

Dancewithme2 said...

I'm disappointed that you didn't like it. I really enjoyed the movie. I'll be getting it when it comes out on DVD. Unfortunately Black films seem to be locked into a certain genre and are expected to lack a certain amount of creativity. It is as if black film cannot be artistic. What a shame. I think what Andre and Big Boi did in Idlewild transcends what we normally see on the movie screen. If you look at the big picture - this was a break out film, art, and new expression. The music also shows the relevance of earlier music styles to today's hip hop. I usually go see movies before I read reviews - that way I can form my own opinion.

Reel Fanatic said...

A lot of people have had the same reaction as you, dancewithme2, and I do hope Idlwwild can pick up after it rather disastour week one at the box office ...I think maybe my expectations were just too high because I hold Mr. Patton and Mr. Benjamin in such high exteem musically