- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 24, 2006

“Idlewild,” the new film starring the Grammy-winning hip-hop duo OutKast, individually known as Andre Benjamin and Antwan Patton, looks terrific — beautifully framed in dusky, sensuous hues befitting a film set in the underworld of the Depression-era ‘30s.

But looks, alas, can be deceiving.

Directed by Bryan Barber (the mastermind behind OutKast’s award-winning videos “The Way You Move” and “Hey Ya!”), the film is little more than an extended music video enabling its stars to play dress-up and preen amid a contrived and confused plot set to anachronistic hip-hop songs from the soundtrack album released earlier this week.

Along the way, the director uses an arsenal of gratuitous camera tricks that include stop motion, dancing musical notes that spring to life on sheet music, a wall of singing clocks in the bedroom of Mr. Benjamin’s character, Percival, and a talking chicken emblazoned on a tin whiskey flask. The latter routinely dispenses advice to Rooster (Mr. Patton), a philandering husband and father of five who spends most of his time in a speakeasy called Church, a den of iniquity in the sleepy Southern hamlet of Idlewild, Ga.

The crippling poverty that gripped the nation in the 1930s apparently bypassed Idlewild. Locals zip about in sporty rides, live in nice homes and go on shopping sprees. The black-market hooch always flows freely at Church — so much so that a ruthless thug named Trumpy (Oscar-nominee Terrence Howard in yet another bad-boy role) decides to muscle in on the lucrative territory.

When Trumpy guns down the nightclub owner, Sunshine Ace (Fazion Love), and his mentor — a genial gangster named Spats (Ving Rhames) — both Church and its debts fall into the hands of Rooster, who devises a plan to meet the greedy Trumpy’s demands for cash. Meanwhile, the mild-mannered Percival (a mortician by day who spends his nights playing piano at Church) falls in love with Angel (newcomer Paula Patton), a beautiful chanteuse who sashays into town and instantly scores a guest booking at the club. The romance catches fire on an embalming table in Percival’s mortuary and, like the film itself, soon crashes and burns as it careens toward a predictable ending.

Mr. Benjamin doesn’t outright fumble his lines. Mostly, he looks gorgeous on screen. Like Paula Patton, he does little else. Mr. Patton shows off his new million-dollar choppers (after a metal grill was removed from his teeth) even when situations hardly merit a smile. Mr. Howard phones in his gangsta persona. Cicely Tyson and Patti LaBelle in star cameos fare no better.

The choreography by D.C. native and three-time Tony winner Hinton Battle is splendid. However, it’s hardly enough to justify plunking down hard-earned cash to see Rooster and his pals in this overstuffed turkey.


TITLE: “Idlewild”

RATING: R (violence, profanity, some nudity and sexual situations)

CREDITS: Written and directed by Bryan Barber. Produced by Charles Roven and Robert Guralnick. Production designed by Charles Breen. Costumes designed by Shawn Barton. Songs by Andre Benjamin and Antwan Patton. Original music score by John Debney.

RUNNING TIME: 120 minutes

WEB SITE: www.idlewildmovie.





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