I never thought for a second that the album would be better than the movie. But it was. Idlewild is structured like a musical, looks like a musical, and has heart like a musical. But it was nothing more than a bloated, ambitious, well-meaning music video.
They apparently chose the Moulin Rouge! approach, where you make a mixtape rather than writing a slew of original songs. But where Moulin Rouge! was a spectacular success, having cherry-picked the perfect lyrics from over three decades of pop music, Idlewild forces story relevance upon the best songs from just over two albums. I wonder, what's the point of setting up the movie like a musical, slapping together dance numbers and so forth, even having your characters sing into the camera, if the songs aren't particularly germane to the story? When the action and lyrics don't work in concert, you end up with a storyline that only loosely relates to the songs, and vice versa. Like your average music video.
Given the tepid stuff on the Idlewild album, their first non-essential work to date, it wouldn't surprise me to learn that they intended the musical numbers to be original, but ultimately fell back on Speakerboxxx/The Love Below's highlights when push came to shove. Sure, said highlights were the absolute best tracks ("Church," "The Rooster," and "Bowtie") from the absolute best crossover hip-hop album ever, but those songs are three years old. Given that they were making an album in parallel with the movie, how could they not use the new album's songs? How could they have entered production on the album/film pair without having three or four can't-miss songs that would appear in both? What happened? I'm sure there's a good reason, but I'm awfully curious about what it might be.
The real shame is this: this could have and should have been a true hip-hop musical, and it wasn't. If a hip-hop musical were ever going to happen, Andre 3000 and Big Boi would be the two guys to hire. No hip-hop group in history is as artistically sound or as creative as OutKast. They've got the acting chops, the charisma, the songwriting talent, the vision, you name it. Their particular brand of hip-hop is tailor-made for the project. And yet it still didn't come together. Too bad.
As a movie, it's not awful. It wasn't cringeworthy; there were definitely some good parts to it. The acting was perfectly fine. The music videos themselves were pretty sweet. I like the way that the anachronisms were handled. And I give the ambition of the project its due. But it's nevertheless pointless. A waste of a great idea.