It's rather troubling that the only truly remarkable scene in the nearly two and a half hour duration of Idlewild is essentially a music video tacked on after the movie has ended and the credits are rolling, but given the skill set of its lead performers and director, it's not even remotely surprising. Idlewild is Bryan Barber's first feature after directing several videos, mainly for Outkast, who star in this occasionally whimsical Prohibition-era tale of two close friends from opposites sides of the proverbial tracks who both find themselves facing a crossroads in their lives. In spite of some inspired musical numbers and some special effects-driven visual quirks, the story itself is not tremendously interesting, and suffers from questionable pacing and a lack of narrative focus. As a result, the film never earns its big emotional moments, which fall flat, and sometimes seem random and haphazard.
A lot of the problem with Idlewild stems from the mistaken notion that because Andre 3000 and Big Boi are extremely charismatic performers, that they would obviously be great actors. They aren't bad actors by any stretch of the imagination, but their level of skill as thespians relative to their prowess as musicians is analogous to Michael Jordan's record as a baseball player in comparison to his history in the NBA. When the two perform their songs in the movie, they are magnetic and the film is given a jolt of life, but they are otherwise simply competent, though Andre is the sort of man that demands an audience's full attention even in his dullest moments on screen.
Though the film is being released simultaneously with a lengthy soundtrack album, nearly all of the songs prominently featured in Idlewild are selections from either their bestselling double LP Speakerboxx/The Love Below or the tracks recorded especially for their 2001 greatest hits record. Curiously, the lyrics of the songs are inconsistently reworked in the interest of avoiding lines that are inappropriate to the narrative, so that, for instance “The Rooster” randomly omits an anachronistic reference to tapes and cds in its chorus, but for some reason Andre 3000 still finds himself singing “She Lives In My Lap” to the corpse of his love interest. It's very puzzling and makes a scene that ought to be tragic seem unintentionally uncomfortable and creepy.