Chances are, you find at least one member of OutKast endlessly charismatic and cool. Chances are, OutKast has—at least at one point in your life—been your favorite rap group. And chances are, once upon a time you thought a feature-length vanity project showcasing André 3000 and Big Boi's infinite charm sounded like a fun idea. So did I, and here's the vicious paradox of said vanity project: The more you like OutKast, the more you will hate Idlewild.
The setting is a 1930's speakeasy, where Big Boi (his character's name is Rooster, but really—he's just playing Big Boi) is a cooler-than-a-polar-bear's-toenails "juke joint" owner, while André 3000 is the 40-year-old virgin who plays piano. The whole movie's sepia and suspenders, and the combination of music and hustling is a natural (if obvious) setting for a hiphop drama. Essentially a scant few music videos threaded together by an impossibly boring and limp plot, Idlewild is mishandled at nearly every step by director Bryan Barber (most famous for 'Kast's "Hey Ya!" video).
The cliché, of course, is that music video- turned-movie directors usually just crank out unfocused grab bags of fancy shots and "cool" effects. This stereotype seems to have been developed expressly for Barber, who uses every ridiculous MTV cliché in the book to distract viewers from his ineptitude. There's a Matrix-style shootout, inanimate objects that talk and dance, quick rewinds, and a slow-motion walk under a rain machine that ends in a long, sexy kiss.
Barber lays out a specific formula for making André and Big Boi, two fascinating artists, nearly unwatchable: He repeats every plot point at least once to make sure you can understand his brilliant story; he gives André a grouchy dad who "just doesn't understand" him; he makes every scene look like a played Janet Jackson video; and there's not a dramatic moment that's not scored by a walking bassline and bleating trumpet.
Which brings us to the much-anticipated musical component of Idlewild. Surprise: All the music here is from OutKast's last double album, Speakerboxxx and The Love Below! Yep, it's the exact same OutKast music you've been listening to for the past two and a half years! (As for those "official soundtrack" songs you might've heard recently, they're nowhere to be found in the movie.)
With OutKast's future in doubt—they don't tour together anymore, and a proper album sounds like a pipe dream—it's already hard being an OutKast fan. The reason we loved them so much in the first place was because they were a brilliant alternative to everything unimaginative and corny that Idlewild celebrates.