Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

As we have already acknowledged, I don’t understand a lot of things.  Take the movie business for instance.  Three years ago, Outkast was probably the hottest group around with hits at the top of the charts, dope videos (a friend tells me by using the word ‘dope’ I’m dating myself.  I refuse to ‘Krunk’ however as it sounds stupid.  Unlike ‘dope’), they have a huge loyal fanbase and sold out concerts.  So Andre ‘3000’ Benjamin, Antwan ‘Big Boi’ Patton and their music video director Bryan Barber decide to make a movie about a 1930’s prohibition town in Georgia called ‘Idlewild’.    And it sits on a shelf for two years waiting to be released.  Now, reports abound that Andre and Antwan are beefing with each other, the group is on the verge of breaking up and haven’t released an album since 2003, unless you count this soundtrack so NOW is a good time to release Idlewild?  I just don’t get it.

Anyway, Idlewild is a mixture of a whole bunch of stuff that probably doesn’t mesh too well when added up as a whole, but does manage to entertain when taken separately.  It has energy to burn, and it also has the good fortune of being blessed with the presence of Terrence Howard, who is making it habit of stealing movies and making them his own no matter what the part is.

Andre Benjamin is Percy, the repressed son of a mortician who longs for a better life outside of idlewild, writes songs and plays piano at the juke joint known as ‘The Church’.  The other half of Outkast, Antwan Patton is Rooster, the womanizing father of five and Percy’s childhood friend who performs at The Church and also serves as its assistant manager.  When Roosters mentor Spatz (Ving Rhames) and the owner of The Church, Ace (Faizon Love) are murdered by the duplicitous Thumpy (Howard)

Rooster assumes ownership of the club under Thumpy’s iron thumb.  Meanwhile, Percy meets Angel (Paula Patton), a diva-esque lounge singer who strangely has stage fright and the two begin romance that begins with music and ends with sweaty bodies.  A word about Paula Patton.  Her legs start somewhere around the ground and end in the vicinity of the heavens.  Now I’m guessing at that because I can’t see into the heavens, and they could very well extend beyond that, but let’s assume that’s where they end.

One of the rumors for the two different story lines for Benjamin and Patton is so that the two could spend as little time as possible around each other.  The two child actors playing the men spent more time together than the two adult actors did, truth be told, so I don’t know.  I do know that it made for one confusing jumbled story that had everything thrown into and it never did come completely together.  It’s one part musical slick dance hall choreography with Cab Calloway style singing numbers. Then it's a gangster flick with shady characters, gun battles and car chases.  Or perhaps it's a love story with doomed star crossed lovers, Or maybe a family drama with a cheating husband, an abusive father, a doting wife and loving kids.  Or it is a  fantasy with singing alarm clocks and talking roosters.  It’s all of those things.

Bryan Barber does an admirable job attempting to corral all of these different elements together to form some sort of coherent movie, but it had to be overwhelming.  Benjamin and Patton are decent enough in their respective roles, but damn that Terence Howard who pretty much shows them how it’s supposed to be done.  The man is a fine actor and one who’s paid his dues and has earned all of the success he is now receiving.  And he plays a slimy gangster just about as well as anyone.

Despite the total chaos that is Idlewild, it plenty energetic, never becomes boring and is feast for the eyes and ears.  I’ll have you know that rappers have made far worse movies than this one, unless you think ‘Belly’ is dope, of course.  Watch if only to see Terence Howard at the top his game and see fancy people dance fancy fast.  Not great, but definitely not a total waste of time.

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