Ever since they were kids in 1920s America, Rooster (Big Boi) had been getting his foot in the door of gangster culture and his friend Percival (André Benjamin) felt doomed to grow up to follow in his father's footsteps as a mortician. However, come the thirties and Prohibition, they were both working at a speakeasy called The Church, with Rooster now a popular performer and right hand man to the manager, Ace (Faizon Love) and Percival supplementing his mortician's income as a piano player. They were both headed for upheaval when two separate people walked into their lives...
And ever since the fifties pop music performers and rock and roller musicians have been keen to make it in the movies, and the notion that being singer naturally makes you a perfect film star goes back further than that. Bringing that idea up to date, it seemed no rapper worth his salt didn't have a movie deal at some point in their career, from Run DMC in Tougher Than Leather to erm, The Fat Boys in Disorderlies. Well, it's an example. Joining the ranks here were André 3000 and Big Boi from Outkast in a project written and directed by one of their music video creators, Bryan Barber.
After their Speakerboxxx/ The Love Below double album, which was recorded with Outkast split into two, rumours were that the duo had fallen out or were about to go their separate ways, and in truth Idlewild didn't give them much to do together, therefore not doing much to allay those rumours. In fact, there's only a couple of scenes where they get to talk with each other as most of the film resembles two stories running on parallel lines. It's at the end they are really drawn together for a frankly morbid finale, but if you wanted to see the stars as an onscreen team, you'd be disappointed.
So Rooster is witness to the murder of his boss by the supplier of the hooch and general baddie Trumpy (Terrence Howard, showing how acting is done by the professionals), but keeps quiet about it in fear of his life. Besides, it now means he has control over the nightclub, though he is dismayed to learn he has to take care of Ace's debts to Trumpy into the bargain. Add to this marital troubles and what appears to be about fifteen kids, and an alcohol problem looming, then he's in a sticky situation all told. Meanwhile, Percival is torn between his widowed father's wishes (demands, really) to continue at the mortuary and his talents as a music writer and performer.
Things don't get any easier for Percival when a beautiful singer calling herself Angel Davenport (Paula Patton) arrives in town and takes an interest in him that blossoms into romance. So you can see, cliché is never far away from the plot, but in way the film is paying tribute to the films of the past while injecting a jolt of 2000s tunes into them. The production numbers are too few, but worth waiting for with anachronistic sounds ironically not seeming out of place in this world. Add to the mix a sort of magical realism, complete with Rooster's talking flask and Percival's singing clocks, and Barber conjures up something that may not be startlingly original, but is full of sincerity and borderline barmy scenes like Big Boi rapping during a car chase. I don't like to damn it with faint praise, but while not a total success it is interesting - it simply needed more fizz and crackle and less moping (André!). Non-Outkast music by John Debney.