Flamboyant flappers, groggy gangsters

Outkast’s new film “Idlewild” features good beats, but poor story lines

Sara Nicole Miller

If one has to be cruel to be kind in film reviews, then here it goes: Take all of the skittish, undercooked and overdramatic elements of your average big screen musical, and combine them with all the outlandish conspicuous consumption and male sartorial decadence of a hip-pop video, and you just might have something similar to the lovely gobbledygook that is OutKast’s new movie, “Idlewild.”

Make no mistake, the new album that serves as a soundtrack for the movie is quite pleasurable. The electro-jazzy, avant-garde hip-hop sound is still there, although it does seem as though André has gone overboard on the gremlin-esque back-up vocals for his oddball mixes.

Even so, the fleeting animatronic jester-funk is not a big enough front for a plot that reeks of raging misogyny and cookie-cutter stock characters that occupy every fictitious American underworld.

The musical tells the story of two boys coming of age in 1930s Idlewild, Georgia – a groggy Southern town where Spanish moss-draped trees line the streets, gangstas rub elbows in nightclubs, and jazz music is the flavor of the day.

André Benjamin (André 3000) plays Percival, the shy, reclusive musical son of the local mortician. Antwan A. Patton (Big Boi) plays Rooster, a female-lovin’, whiskey-swiggin’ playboy who often consults the philosophical talking rooster on the side of his flask.

Both the consequences and aspirations of the two young chaps manifest themselves inside a local Prohibition-era speakeasy joint, where flappers prance about in pink-feathered costumes and yellow smoke settles on rowdy, booze-pickled crowds.

At times, the film makes reasonable yet transitory attempts at creating a whimsical and imaginative setting in which the artists bellow and jiggy out some noteworthy performances and choreography.

However, the rest is more or less an aesthetically pleasing mess. The character development usually is cheesy, abrupt or superficial. And even worse, Macy Gray herself plays a wretched, drunken stage performer with no soul and a foul mouth. Her primary purpose seems to be filling up space, if that.

“Idlewild” may be stylistically and musically pleasing

on many fronts, just don’t expect a heartrending – or even semi-thoughtful – melodrama. For now, OutKast should just stick to doing what they do best – making great beats to sway to.