Sunday, August 27, 2006

My Take - Idlewild - starring Andre '3000' Benjamin and Antwan 'Big Boi' Patton

My Take on the Movies
A Mini-Review of
By: A. L. “Toni” Anderson

With great fanfare, OutKast’s first feature length film, Idlewild (2006) opened in theaters this weekend. Written and directed by Bryan Barber (OutKast: The Videos - 2003), it stars André “3000” Benjamin and Antwan “Big Boi” Patton. Idlewild is a musical drama set in the 1930s, with choreography by Tony Award winning actor/dancer Hinton Battle.

The film begins with sepiatone stills reminiscent of the work of Ocsar Micheaux (African American filmmaker of the 1920s and 1930s). We hear Percival’s voice reciting lines from Shakespeare’s As You Like It. These may be the few peaceful moments in the entire film.

Rooster (Big Boi) and Percival (Andre 3000) meet as children at the mortuary of Percival’s father (Ben Vereen), for the funeral of Rooster’s uncle. Rooster plays a practical joke on Percival, and thus begins a long and fast friendship. The young Rooster is played by Bobbé J. Thompson (That’s So Raven); young Percival is Bre’wan Waddell.

Advance 20 years or so, and we see Rooster as a night club singer, performing music that is decidedly not from the 1930s. The spot, Church, is owned by “Sunshine” Ace (Faizon Love). Due to Rooster’s influence, Ace has reluctantly allowed Percival to play his own compositions at the club. Enter Trumpy/Wilbert (Terrence Dashon Howard), and the entire world of Idlewild, Georgia, is turned upside down. The frenzied dancing and singing are now interlaced with gunfire.

Among the cast are singer/songwriter Patrick “Sleepy” Brown (The Way You Move), Paula Patton (Hitch - 2005), Malinda Williams (Soul Food), Macy Gray (Lackawanna Blues - 2005), Paula Jai Parker (Hustle and Flow - 2005), Ving Rhames (Mission Impossible: III - 2006), Bill Nunn (Do the Right Thing - 1989), and a cameo by Patti LaBelle as the “real” Angel Davenport.

Idlewild is probably one of the better musicals I have seen. The dance numbers are extremely entertaining, and unlike most musicals, the continuity of the film action is not detrimentally interrupted for the songs. OutKast’s outlandish sense of humor is evident in the lyrics, and their fanciful natures are evident in the talking rooster flask (voice of Bentley Farnsworth) and in the animated notes on Percival’s sheet music. Other fanciful aspects seem to take a page out of the Harry Potter novels.

I can’t praise Idlewild highly enough. The dancing is spectacular, the songs provide food for thought, and the storyline (with all its little subplots) really works. You might not like to take your pre-teen kids, but I’ll bet I couldn’t keep you away from this one. Nor would I want to. [2:00]

♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠

[© 08/25/2006]


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