Idlewild (2006)

Directed by: Bryan Barber

Premise: A musical featuring songs by Outkast. Set during Prohibition, Percival (Andre Benjamin) and Rooster (Big Boi) mange and perform a speakeasy until they run afoul of a gangster (Terrence Howard) out to take over their business. The two find a possible solution in Angel (Paula Patton), a new performer who begins to draw crowds to their establishment.

What Works: Idlewild is one of the most successful musicals in a long time. The combination of the music of Outkast with the culture of 1920’s urban culture works very well and captures the sensuality, danger, creativity, and fun of the speakeasy environment. Where many film musicals get into trouble in their musical sequences, locking down the camera and recreating a theatrical moment, Idlewild is able to avoid this by making its content a fusion of the live music experience and the cinematic apparatus. The style of the sequences borrows the best elements of music videos and combines it with traditional narrative to create musical sequences that contribute to the story and develop the characters and conflicts rather than stopping to extrapolate on a single idea or emotion. Idlewild’s acting is very good. Big Boi delivers very funny comic relief and Benjamin gives the film its emotional ups and downs. The standout performances of Idlewild are in Patton as Angel, the gifted singer looking for a big break, and Howard as Trumpy, a very dangerous gangster. Patton demonstrates great talent for singing and acting and she has a strong screen presence. Howard is great as the murderous gangster and nearly steals the show. He gives the story its weight and his performance sells the drama, giving the narrative a lot of forward motion.  The film also features a very interesting relationship between Percival and his practical, god-fearing father (Ben Vereen). Although it is a somewhat stock father-son conflict, the actors pull it off and give it a great deal of authenticity.

What Doesn’t: Idlewild follows a format seen in other musicals, most recently in Moulin Rouge! and as a result the story is fairly predictable.

DVD extras: Deleted scene and a deleted song, music videos. 

Bottom Line: Idlewild is a great deal of fun and fans of Outkast and contemporary musicals will want to check it out. Aside of the musical content, the film does not do much that is new, but it does do it very well.

 

Episode:#125 (January 7, 2007)