Meanwhile, the juke joint's unassuming piano player Percival (Andre Benjamin, who's already embarked on a film career in such films as “Four Brothers” and “Be Cool”) harbors dreams of stardom while working for his exigent father at the local mortuary. It's with the arrival of singer Angel Davenport (Paula Patton, no relation to Antwan) that this ivory-tickler finds both an outlet for the tunes he scribbles in the attic of his father's house and a ticket out of the backwater village to the bright lights of Chicago.
Although they're purportedly best friends since childhood, Percival and Rooster have just two scenes together as adults -- i.e., as the members of OutKast -- the first of which doesn't occur until halfway through the two-hour film, and the second in the very last scene. This arrangement jibes with the recent development that Benjamin, perhaps better known as Andre 3000, and Patton, aka Big Boi, have experienced an artistic parting of ways recently. Before the soundtrack to “Idlewild,” their last double album, “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below,” was really the packaging together of two solo CDs. And reports indicate that the pair has undergone what could even be characterized as a falling out.
Indeed, their characters here serve as a handy metaphor for the hip-hop performers themselves, with Rooster/Patton as the outgoing, bling-bling businessman and Percival/Benjamin as the sensitive, introverted artiste. (Consider, for example, the music videos for Patton's “The Way You Move” versus Benjamin's “Hey Ya!”) But the result is two separate films that just happen to share the same setting.
Director/writer Bryan Barber, who has frequently collaborated on OutKast's music videos, demonstrates an imaginative visual flair. From the film's opening credits, which run over archival footage and photographs, he mixes imagery like a DJ spinning records: The cock on Rooster's flask dispenses advice at a Chipmunks- like pitch, and the notes on Percival's sheet music come to life in the form of stick figures going about their own lives. Especially exhilarating are the dance sequences, anachronistic fusions of hip-hop and swing, video ‘hos in rich retro costumes, cut to a rhythm that emphasizes the moves on show.
What works visually, though, sputters in the storytelling. This sort of sampling as applied to narrative results in a mixed bag of cliches, from the breathless melodrama of Percival's storyline to the sudden action-flick theatrics of Rooster's, complete with a bullet to the chest stopped by a Bible and a car chase -- in period vehicles, mind you -- through the loamy Southern countryside. Starring Andre Benjamin, Antwan A. Patton, Paula Patton, Terrence Howard, Faizon Love and Malinda Williams. Directed and written by Bryan Barber. Produced by Charles Roven and Robert Guralnick. A Universal release. Musical drama. Rated R for violence, sexuality, nudity and language. Running time: 121 min