It should have been great. OutKast’s library lends itself to the upbeat rhythm of movie musicals, with the film’s Prohibition-era setting taking the stylization of contemporary music videos and director Bryan Barber’s deep shade photography. “MTV style” has become a favourite putdown among conservative movie critics, but I would love to be able to watch innovative music videos projected in giant cinematic glory.
This is where Idlewild is a letdown. Its imagery is quirky and delicate, but rarely striking. And the musical numbers just don’t tear the roof off. There aren’t enough of them to begin with. Idlewild has posterity, but no bounce.
Half the problem is that rap outfit OutKast’s members Andre 3000 and Big Boi barely interact. When they do, they never seem like a destined duo. Their scenes together lack the chemistry to suggest they could make a band. Andre 3000 is Percival, an innocent piano player for a gang-run juke joint. Rooster (Big Boi) is the venue’s main performance attraction. But when Rooster inherits the juke joint, he’s working with dirty money and dirty people, and can’t resist the lure of women who are distancing him from his family. If only Rooster and Percival could team up and start a clean life for themselves outside of Idlewild.
Beyond the olden-day Southern setting and musical decor, what’s interesting about Idlewild is how it’s a variant of semi-autobiographical films like 8 Mile and Get Rich Or Die Tryin’, about rap stars holding onto their careerist dreams through hardship. It’s a “rural” urban film: The ghetto is replaced with small-town Georgia, gangstas are replaced with gangsters. But the focus on the familiar, dramatically inert story just makes for a lot of dead air.
When Big Boi takes the stage with “Bowtie” from the Speakerboxxx album, the movie finds its liveliest song and dance number. Members of Fishbone (who influenced OutKast) are cast as backing musicians, but it’s one of the few times Idlewild acknow- ledges history. Nineteen-thirties black America becomes just a stage for OutKast’s vanity project.
None of the throwback gospel-funk sizzles like The Color Purple number “Maybe God is Trying to Tell You Somethin’.” The weird result is a musical depleted of musical outburst. Andre’s mediocre The Love Below track “She Lives in My Lap” takes precedence over the new album’s terrific, sunny “Morris Brown” (reserved for late end-credit status). That single’s vibrancy is missing from Idlewild, nothing more than rap stars playing dressup.
If there’s a reason the beer comedy has never taken off as a subgenre the way stoner comedies have, it may be that it’s easier to watch a movie when you’re stoned than when you’re drunk. Beerfest, from Broken Lizard (the comedy troupe behind Super Troopers and Club Dread), does nothing to help the beer comedy’s cause. Teams from around the world compete in the seedy world of underground beer drinking—the movie at least earns novelty points for basing its premise on Van Damme’s Bloodsport. There’s no doubt an audience for this, but I don’t like beer. Beerfest makes the usual Broken Lizard mistake of being too impressed with itself. Director Jay Chadrasekhar and his crew amuse each other with enough banal antics (it runs nearly two hours) that the sober viewer suffers enormous gaps of boredom between good jokes.
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