Universal faces the music with ‘Idlewild’

No wonder Idlewild, the new OutKast movie, has been languishing on the shelf at Universal Pictures for two years. Sure, the spectacle has sheen. And the title is a step up from Hard, A Great Start, which is what it was originally called. But how do you go about marketing a hip-hop-retrofitted Prohibition musical that lurches between cartoon and melodrama by way of genre gore? And bear in mind that the two leads, recording novas André 3000 and Big Boi, are pledged to unjoin themselves at the hip. Separate album sides, separate photography sessions, separate (if any) concerts—it can’t be easy for their record label, either. (For some music execs, movies in general are no joy. In the immortal words of one Arista marketer, before the Grammy-magnets went to Jive: “How do you get OutKast to do a concert in Pittsburgh once they’ve tasted Hollywood?”) Idlewild was meant to promote the multiplatinum duo. But it’s tough to ignore the metaphor of Dre’s Percival Jenkins character: a funeral parlor attendant/musician wrestling with his destiny in a nowheresville he’s reluctant to leave. An early draft of the script opened with someone “stretched out in a box,” later revealing that the man had hung himself—and that Percival Jenkins was he. Whatever happens to OutKast, Jive and its movie partners might want to nurture a new franchise called Church, the movie’s rum-soaked speakeasy featuring Hinton Battle moves and Macy Gray grooves. Minus the fast-talkin’, murderous, double-crossing thugs, of course.

—Posted by Laura Blum

Photo: Universal Pictures