There is a wonderful, unexpected charm to ATL, a charm that belies its unoriginal story and cliched characters. In the hands of video director Chris Robinson, the film’s well-worn tale of growing up poor and black is given new life through a refreshing youth and an almost irrepressible joy that make the film a pleasure to watch.
ATL is primarily the story of Rashad (played with effortless charisma by Atlanta rapper Tip “T.I.” Harris), a high school senior whose parents were killed in a car accident three years before. Since then, along with his little brother Ant (the impressive Evan Ross), Rashad has lived with his janitor uncle (Mykelti Williamson) and quietly saved money in the hope that, though he expects to work alongside his uncle for the rest of his life, he’ll be able to help Ant get out of Atlanta, and live a better life. Despite his fierce exterior, there’s something fanciful to Rashad, from his meticulous cartoons to his reoccurring fantasies about being alone and free, with no problems and no responsibilities.