Idlewild -- the oft-delayed, much-anticipated musical from best-selling Atlanta hip-hop duo Outkast -- is, as they often say, a very movie movie. There's about 12 different films swimming around in it: Purple Rain, The Cotton Club, Chicago, Under the Cherry Moon, 42nd Street, Harlem Nights -- but it's also got nods to everything from Busby Berkeley musicals to '70s Black gangster films, art cinema to Some Like it Hot. Idlewild isn't coherent -- and it doesn't have a lot to say on the rare occasions it does make sense -- but it's also exuberant and wildly stylish. There's a question of who Idlewild is for -- the older audience who could appreciate its dance numbers and retro-style might be put off by the hip-hop elements; the kids who like hip-hop might be confused about why two of the most modern rappers in the game have set their big-screen debut in the 1930s. But that, frankly, just means more fun for those of us eager to take a chance on something different.
Deep in the heart of Prohibition-era Georgia, the small town of Idlewild is sleepy -- except at The Church, the raucous nightclub-and-cabaret owned by Ace (Faizon Love) and supplied by Spats (Ving Rhames). The entertainment at The Church is a pretty wild affair -- there's a full band, anchored by singer Rooster (Antwan A. Patton, a.k.a. Big Boi) and pianist Percival (André Benjamin, a.k.a. Andre3000). Spats is retiring, though, and wants to enjoy the good life -- including handing control of the local illegal booze empire to his right-hand man, Trumpy (Terrence Howard). Just as Trumpy is acting to ensure that the succession goes his way, noted singer Angel Daveport (Paula Patton) arrives from back East to play an extended engagement at The Church. Rooster must find a way to take control of The Church, even as he's trying to be a man to his wife and children; Percival has to summon up the courage to stop living in the shadow of his mortician father (Ben Vereen) and strike out as an artist.