Sunday, June 27, 2010

Review - Idlewild

Idlewild - U.S., 2006

Bryan Barber’s Idlewild is proof of two things: first, that the men who make up the music group Outkast are extremely talented and two, that musicals are rapidly becoming a series of music videos held together by rather flimsy narrative threads. I should add that Idlewild once again proves that when a character says something like, “You have songs that the world must hear” or “This is the best song I’ve ever written and I want you to record it,” the song that follows rarely justifies the preceding hype. Idlewild follows an extremely predictable pattern: a veteran gangster retires, a trusted companion betrays him, and of course there's the eventual confrontation between the man who takes over and the one who should have taken over. The only thing that separates this film from others like it is its soundtrack. In Idlewild, speakeasies are filled with the thumping sounds of hip-hop, despite the fact that the film takes place in 1935.

Big Boi and Andre Benjamin star as Rooster and Percival, two lifelong friends whose careers could not be more different. Rooster, along with performing at a club called the Church, helps his uncle’s illegal liquor transport business, and Percival, when he isn’t playing piano at the Church, helps his father run a funeral home. Their lives are altered by the murder of Rooster’s uncle Spats (Ving Raimes) and the arrival of a beautiful singer named Angel, played by Paula Patton. Terrence Howard plays Trumpy, the violent young man responsible for Spats’s murder. It’s not hard to predict that revenge and love will play a role in what follows.

Idlewild has its heart in the right place. Both Rooster and Percival are likeable characters, and the romance between Percival and Angel seems genuine enough. However, the film follows a worn out path of film clichés and has nothing new to offer to the genre it belongs to other than its use of music video techniques. In one scene, Rooster raps while simultaneously driving and engaging in a gunfight with Trumpy’s henchmen. The scene reminded me of an R. Kelly video that I had not been impressed with years ago. Idlewild is a good showcase of Big Boi’s, Andre Benjamin’s, and Paula Patton’s musical talents, but it’s not much else. I do confess though that I wish I could wag my finger to music the way Big Boi can. After seeing Idlewild, I stood in front of a mirror and tried it. I won’t be doing that again. (on DVD)

2 and a half stars

No comments: