Idlewild: More Idle Than Wild

Gabe Gott


Credit: Jason Hall

Sorry Ms. Jackson, but Outkast’s new movie – Idlewild – isn’t very good.

Written and directed by Bryan Barber, Idlewild is a musical-drama set in the Prohibition-era South. Think Purple Rain meets Chicago and, like Purple Rain, the soundtrack will be more popular than the movie.

The movie centers around the two main characters – Percival, played by Andre “3000” Benjamin (Four Brothers) and Antwon “Big Boi” Patton (ATL) portraying a club owner named Rooster in their hometown of Idlewild, Georgia.

Percival, the son of a widower funeral home director played by Ben Vereen (All That Jazz), is torn between his family trade and his true passion of playing piano and writing songs.

Percival works by day at the funeral home, but by night he plays piano at the speakeasy known as The Church. The Church is run by Rooster, Percival’s friend since the two were eight-years-old. Along with managing and performing at the speakeasy, Rooster must battle gangsters who are trying to take the Church from him.

The simplistic plot of Idlewild was stretched to fit the 90-minute length of the movie but could have been summed up in a fraction of that time. If it were more focused on the main characters and getting to the point faster, sitting through this movie would have been more bearable.

The plot was extremely predictable, using the same cheap plot devices that have been in every Prohibition-era gangster movie ever made. For example, in one scene Rooster is given a Bible that he puts in the breast pocket of his shirt. It’s not surprising a few minutes later when the Bible protects him from taking a bullet to the chest.

Clich‚ after clich‚ makes even the most serious dramatic moments of the movie humorous, and it becomes hard to take the characters’ plights seriously.

The acting wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t very good either. Even great actors like Ben Vereen and Ving Rhames give dull performances. Vereen and Rhames seemed uninspired by the poor writing and the inadequate directing. Their performances as the mentors of Percival and Rooster could have been powerful, but instead were unconvincing.

It is not surprising that Idlewild is Barber’s first time writing and directing a full-length movie. His only previous experience has been directing music videos for songs such as Outkast’s “Hey Ya” and “The Way You Move.” Direction for this type of movie would have worked with some better writing, or vice-versa.

Much like a music video, the cinematography was very flashy and fast-paced. The movie was a lot of flash without much substance.

The musical segments of Idlewild were the best parts of the movie, because the music is extremely good. Fans of Outkast’s last album, Speakerboxx/The Love Below, will be pleased to hear that its style is similar to it and just as a quality of an effort.

The cinematography of the musical scenes was at best like a clich‚ hip-hop music video and was not up to par with the music. Outkast was obviously lip-synching, and was surrounded by scantily-clad women dancing like strippers, and musicians who were clearly not playing their instruments.

Even given all the faults of this movie, it was somewhat entertaining. Viewers might find themselves tapping their feet to the music and silently rooting for the heroes – even though they probably know how everything is going to turn out.

Don’t see Idlewild in theaters, buy the soundtrack and rent the DVD when it comes out.

Contact ALL correspondent Gabe Gott at [email protected].


Starring: Big Boi, Andre 3000

Directed by: Bryan Barber

Rated: R for violence, sexuality, nudity and language

Stater rating (out of five): ??1/2