Clay Cane is a New York City-based writer who is recognized for his contributions in journalism. Clay is a regular contributor for various print and online publications such as The Advocate and BET.com. He is the author of the highly anticipated novel Ball-Shaped World, which is a fictionalized account of the black and Latino ballroom scene. Also, he is the Entertainment Editor at BET.com and a member of New York Film Critics Online. He can be reached at claycane@gmail.com.


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    Friday, August 25, 2006

    music: "So Excited" by Janet Jackson


    We all have high expectations for the legendary hip-hop group Outkast. Their music has been virtually flawless from Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik to Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. André 3000’s avant-garde musical sensibility and Big Boi’s mainstream, but yet interesting sound, has garnered millions of album sold worldwide, countless awards and a dedicated fan base. Needless to say – the winning streak is over. Idlewild is the worst hip-hop musical since the debacle of a film Carmen: A Hip-Hopera. The film is far from “wild” and more like a “mild”, less entertaining version of Harlem Nights meets Life.

    Written and directed by hip-hop video director, Bryan Barber, Idlewild follows the yawn-fest life and times of the shy, sexy, geek Percy (André 3000) and the ambitious, family-oriented, hustler Rooster (Big Boi). The movie starts off tolerable with Rooster pushing Percy along to terrorize and rule the town of Idlewild. In addition, it is clear each of the characters has a passion for music and this will be the bonding force in their friendship. For a moment the audience is invested in the characters, but after ten minutes of Percy and Rooster as adults the audience loses all emotional interest, wishing they would stick to being André 3000 and Big Boi.

    Rooster is the headlining act of the saucy nightclub “Church”, where all of the sinners and tramps go out to drink, party and have sex. Percy is the piano player of the club who is shunned by the crowd, dancers and management, but remains at Rooster’s adamant requests. After a shoot out with the owner of the club, Rooster becomes the owner, but is violently controlled by Trumpy, played by the constant light-skinned villain with bad hair in a hip-hop movie, Terrence Howard. Chaos ensues as Rooster tries to gain control of the club and Percy falls in love with club singer Angel Davenport, making her a local star with his dynamic piano playing. Idlewild is a painfully predictable story line that would’ve worked better as a TNT movie rather than an over two-hour long feature film.

    The biggest flaw, to put in plainly, is … André 3000 cannot act. His performance in Idlewild is the equivalent of Prince in the horrid film Graffiti Bridge. No connection with his audience, mumbling his words, head bowed and rarely making eye contact with other actors. The shy, sexy, reclusive, misunderstood nerd may come off well in music videos, but not in a snoozer of a film like Idlewild – I’m sure the guy who was snoring two aisles behind me would agree. Mr. 3000 is a complete disappointment and should avoid all acting unless he receives serious training.

    Big Boi was more impressive as an actor, and in comparison to André 3000 he could’ve been Denzel Washington. Big Boi seemed natural, relaxed and understanding his under developed character. Rooster had no depth, passion, or any redepemptive qualities to care about his well-being. Even with Big Boi’s mild acting skills he still does not have the stamina to carry a full length film. Big Boi would be more enjoyable as a co-star behind the co-star in an urban role, closer to himself.

    The visuals in Idlewild are striking, but having pretty special effects is not enough to carry a film, especially when mixed with a grating and historically incorrect soundtrack. The film is placed in the 1930’s and while I understand Big Boi and André are hip-hop artists, placing hip-hop in the 1930’s with dancing that resembled voguing meets The Wiz was taking the suspension of disbelief way too far.

    Musically, the movie was a complete bore letting the audience know Outkast took too much of an ambitious leap trying to mix the 1930s with modern day hip-hop. If you are going to place a movie in the ‘30s stay true to the time and if you need to morph modern day music into ninety percent of the film then why not just place the film in the modern day? Also,
    performing songs from Speakerboxxx/The Love Below completely snatched the audience out of Idlewild and tossed them into their living room watching BET in 2004. Deeply disappointing, irritating and not enjoyable – no amount of aesthetics could make up for these atrocious flaws.

    Idlewild is a “musical” of sorts, but felt more like an ornamental collection of Outkast’s worst music videos. The beginning of the film does not start off like a music video montage, but as the film went along and they didn’t seem to know what to do with the plot, each scene turned into an overproduced, bizarre video. For example, André’s character waking up to a collection of coo-coo clocks and breaking out into song, or Big Boi’s character in a shoot out as he’s driving down a dirt road and talking to a rooster on his liquor bottle. Nothing fit, linked together, or made sense – it was like watching Beyonce’s “Déjà Vu” video for two hours!

    The comical cameos were mildly interesting and made the audience want to see more from the people who were actors. For example, Cicely Tyson was incredible, but it was sad to see how her superb acting skills are minimized to Idlewild and Tyler Perry films. Ving Rhames, who is always brilliant, was a needed presence, but disappears shortly after the film starts. The shocker of the film was Macy Gray, who was hilarious as the loud mouth, blues drinking mama. Her scenes were one of the few scenes that had people in the audience laughing when they were supposed to laugh.

    It is obvious that millions of dollars were invested into Idlewild to make it a box office smash. However, the film ends up being a dragged out exercise in narcissism with two artists who seem to have lost touched with what their audience wants to see, hear and enjoy. Over the top special effects, expensive cameos, elaborate costumes and extravagant salaries are suppose to equal success, but will more than likely equal box office poison for Outkast and the creators of Idlewild.

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    Posted by Clay :: 1:10 PM :: 18 comments

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