I had such high hopes for Idlewild, the movie musical from Outkast (hip-hop group responsible for 2004 overplayed-catchy-song-of-the-year, “Hey Ya!”). I expected a fresh, innovative film full of the energy and enthusiasm that you might associate with the group’s style (and videos). I was all set for a cooler version of Chicago (both movies being musicals set in pre-WW2 America). Alas, Idlewild seemed to be aiming for all that, but got dragged down by some really slow “dramatic” scenes, wooden acting by many of its stars, and a cliché storyline.
Against the backdrop of Idlewild, Georgia during the Prohibition era, Andre Benjamin and Antwan Patton play childhood friends who grew up to be a mortician/piano player and a nightclub owner respectively. Trouble comes to town when Benjamin’s piano player meets and falls for a new jazz singer played by Paula Patton (who looks a lot like a young Whitney Houston). Meanwhile, Rooster (Antwan Patton) gets himself into trouble when he fights to get out from under the thumb of the local gangster (played by Terrence Howard). Both storylines come together towards a predictably tragic ending. Overall, the story was extremely predictable (in fact, if you’ve seen Moulin Rouge, you’ve practically seen half the story already).
The only life in is in the well-produced song and dance numbers that are mostly very good. The dancing is athletic and fast-pace, with lots of exciting choreography. Unfortunately there’s only about two dance scenes in the movie. I don’t know if the director (who also directed the Hey Ya! video) just didn’t know how to present the dramatic, non-dancing scenes or just thought that visual slickness could stretch things out to fill a feature-length movie, but a few bright spots were not enough to carry the show. (3 out of 5)