Monday, August 28, 2006

'The Beat's' review of Idlewild

"Idlewild" is a movie for Outkast fans who will recognize every song and reference to their music within the film. But that doesn't mean it successfully translates the group's musical talent to the screen.
The movie is a beautifully rendered but sometimes poorly fleshed out adaptation of the duo's last album, "Speakerboxx/The Love Below." A double disc of solo offerings from group members Big Boi and Andre 3000, it was packaged as a group album even though each disc could have stood alone as a solo effort.
The movie takes elements and, in some cases, whole songs from the album and structures parts of the narrative around the song. The movie itself is about a fictional small town in Georgia called "Idlewild," where Rooster (Big Boi) runs a speakeasy called "Church." Rooster hires his childhood running mate Percy (Andre 3000) to play piano.
Rooster is a renaissance man of sorts, a bootlegger and club manager and ladies man who is the resident singing star at "Church." He's also a family man who can't quite keep his promises to his wife and five kids.
Percy, meanwhile, is the son of a mortician who is the opposite of Rooster. An introvert who isn't above throwing up while on stage, Percy wouldn't have much ground to stand on were it not for his homeboy Rooster.
Percy and Rooster make a great team onstage, with Percy writing the songs and Rooster taking the lead. Songs like "Bow Tie" and "Throw Your Neck Out" get great visual treatment from director Bryan Barber, who turns the rap songs into swinging prohibition-era dance numbers. Big Boi's music works well on screen.
Things get complicated when a goon named Trumpy takes over the club. Played with particular menace by Terance Howard, Trumpy keeps Rooster on edge, while Percy deals with a brooding father and his newfound love interest Angel.
The story stutters between music numbers and an uneven plot. Howard starts off great, but runs out of things to do by the middle of the movie. And Percy's character is bogged down with a bit too much pretense that takes too long to develop. By the time you figure out the reasons for his depression, you pretty much don't care.
In fact, it's Andre 3000's performance as a whole that kills the movie's momentum, surprising when you consider that Andre was supposed to be the character of the group. His turn as Percy is on the surface brooding, but so stilted that he's almost completely unengaging. His romance with Angel creates no real spark and the musical numbers are boring. It isn't until the end, when Percy does a big band routine, that you get any sense of life from Andre 3000.
In contrast, Big Boi carries the movie with both swagger and vulnerability. Although his pimp with a conscience routine falls short at times, it's not for lack of trying. Rooster is a fully realized character, and proves to be a better actor than his counterpart.
In all, Idlewild is a hit or miss at best. Visually, it's a stylistically stunning update of the musical set to a hip-hop groove. But that doesn't save it from being a clunker of a movie that doesn't live up to all of its, and the groups, promise.

No comments: