by Joel Smith & r & & r & Idlewild & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & t's tempting to compare Idlewild to Moulin Rouge. Like its predecessor, Idlewild is a big, glammy musical smorgasbord -- a period piece that revels in the feel and fashion of its place and time (in this case Idlewild, Ga., in somehow-Prohibition-era 1935) but with a thoroughly modern twist. The jazz-meets-hip-hop soundtrack by Outkast (whose Andre Benjamin and Antwan Patton star here) is brilliant. The supporting cast (Terrence Howard, Macy Gray, Ving Rhames) is impressive. The choreography in the dance sequences is stunning.
All of this makes Idlewild, like Moulin Rouge, an absolute pleasure to watch. And that's not even mentioning the occasionally ingenious direction of Bryan Barber, whose only experience to date is filming Outkast's music videos -- which shows. In a good way. In one sequence, in which Benjamin's Percival (a shy but skilled piano player at the local nightclub) tosses and turns in the sheets at night, the camera completely orbits his bed, careening over the headboard, underneath, and back out at his feet. When Percival wakes in the morning, in another scene, the camera is perched about 10 feet above his head, looking down from a wall of ornate and carefully arranged cuckoo clocks, which all burst into action at once. It's a dazzling shot.
But for all these similarities, Idlewild deserves more comparison to, I don't know, Rambo III. Because like nearly any big-budget Hollywood action flick, while it's visually impressive -- even exhilarating -- the rest of it stinks. The clich & eacute;-laden script is unfocused and confusing, following the lives of Percival and Rooster (Patton) from boyhood to their adult lives at Church, an illicit nightclub full of hooch and hoochies. Is the film about Percival's love life? The gangster threatening to shut down the club? Rooster's temptation and salvation? Hard to say. The pacing is so rushed -- and the writing so rambling -- that we never figure out what's going on.
We never really care, though, luckily. There's nothing like a good song-and-dance sequence to wash away those niggling plot questions. And there's no shortage of those here.