Release Date: August 25, 2006
I have always been skeptical of musicians that attempt to make the cross-over to making films. Some have a little bit better luck than others; for instance, Ice Cube has had a long and successful film career. Jon Bon Jovi, not so much. It is truly something that is hit or miss. So you can understand that I was both skeptical and excited when I discovered that the very talented duo of Andre 3000 and Big Boi, better known as Outkast, were making a film together. I was even more enamored when I heard that their film, titled Idlewild, would include a soundtrack completely composed by one of my favorite musical pairings of all time. But that skepticism still lingered.
Set in 1920s Georgia, Idlewild tells the story of two friends as they grow up and try to survive in a world of bootlegging, womanizing, music and mobsters. Percival (Andre Benjamin) is the soft spoken, musically gifted piano player by night, mortician by day who yearns to find his destiny and take care of his aging father (Ben Vereen). Rooster (Antwan A. Patton, aka Big Boi) is the reckless, money minded character of the pair, always out to score a quick dollar or a lovely lady, all while providing for his wife and 5 kids. When the owner of the club where Percy and Rooster play their gigs is slain, Rooster is forced to take over the business and contend with a smooth, stone cold gangster (Terrance Howard) who wants control of the entire town.
As the story unfolds, we are introduced to some excellent supporting characters that inhabit this world of Idlewild. Most notably is the performance from Terrence Howard, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite actors. His performance is precisely executed as the cold-hearted and arrogant Trumpy, a character who holds the audiences interest throughout a film that is arduous at best. The film seems to start very slowly and get more and more lethargic as it rolls on toward the 90 minute mark. It was surprising to me afterword, to see that the film was not actually three hours long, because it certainly felt long.
But the pacing and story rhythm problems cannot be credited whatsoever to anything other than Director Bryan Barber leaving too much in the final cut. There is plenty to love about this movie. The soundtrack is, as expected, sensational, and the dance scenes are engaging and fun. The movie also has a great deal of style, both in the flamboyantly crafted environment and some very breathtaking cinematography. The film has a tremendously smooth look and feel, and the camera is slowed down here and there to create some very unique shots that are, to say the least, just cool. It almost makes you wonder whether they made this film more just to make a film that looked cool rather than to make a film that tells a great story. If that was the intention, I would call it a success.
And ultimately the film is a success; mostly due to the talented twosome that delivered both a wonderful soundtrack and some very palpable performances, especially for musicians. The film has its faults, the lack of attention to detail and the unnecessary celluloid that should have hit the cutting room floor, but that just goes to show that the gentleman from Outkast didn’t get the support they needed in order to make an excellent film. Idlewild is a decent film with a great cast and a soundtrack that is nothing short of sensational. While I may not be making a second pass at the film, I will be headed out to pick up the soundtrack.