With ‘Entergalactic’ Netflix, Kid Cudi makes a classic rom-com

“Entergalactic,” which premieres Friday on Netflix, is by Scott Mescudi, who records as Kid Cudi, under whose nickname he also released an album of the same name. Originally intended as a series, the episodes were cobbled together into a 90-minute film identified by chapter headings. That feels right considering it plays like a feature, a sweet, cheesy and quite adorable rom-com, spiritedly old-fashioned but made new-fashioned through the animation and musical connection. (The songs are in the picture; the picture illustrates the songs.)

Created by Mescudi, starring Kenya Barris (“black”), with a story by Mescudi and a TV play by Maurice Williams and Ian Edelman – who gave the world the great, underrated How to Make It in America, in which Mescudi co-starred – the show was written to accompany the album, which Mescudi describes as “a suite of songs about the beauty of liberation through love”. Romantic comedy feels like a natural extension of Mescudi’s songwriting, with its recurring themes of personal growth.

The plot is simple and follows the venerable arc of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl. (Sorry if that’s a spoiler, but if it is, you need to watch more movies.) Jabari (Mescudi) inadvertently meets up with Carmen (Laura Harrier), a former girlfriend he hasn’t seen in several months has, just before he meets, the fateful new neighbor Meadow (Jessica Williams); Misunderstandings lead to alienation, which inevitably leads to reconciliation. (This isn’t dark drama.) The setting would have served Cary Grant and Irene Dunne well in their day, even though they would have lived on the Upper East Side and drank cocktails instead of smoking weed — and, of course, wouldn’t have had sex until shortly after the credits. (Having the characters hail cabs instead of yelling for a ride feels like a nod to an earlier New York.)

Jabari is a street artist known for a character he paints on buildings and buses, Mr. Rager (a reference to a Kid Cudi song, album, and alter ego); He’d just been hired to develop the character into a comic book, so he could probably afford this light-filled, two-story loft in lower Manhattan — “that one percent apartment,” as one friend describes it. Meadow, who first meets Jabari in a West Side Story dance moment at the gym as the party she’s throwing fades around her, is a photographer on the verge of exhibiting in a group show.

As is tradition, he has a couple of goofy friends, Jimmy (Timothée Chalamet) and Ky (Tyrone Griffin, aka Ty Dolla Sign), who give him questionable advice; she has a smart girl (Vanessa Hudgens as Karina) whose advice is good. (Females – including Mescudi’s own sister Maisha Mescudi as Jabari’s sister – are the more developed characters here.)

An animated New York street.

A colorful New York City is the backdrop of “Entergalactic”.

(netflix)

If a bit unformed and not entirely honest with himself, Jabari is a decent guy. He walks alongside Meadow and assumes the knightly curb position; he advises a friend, “Stop saying ‘bitches.'” There’s an appealing modesty to courting that progresses in stages from coy looks and nervous banter to awkward hugs to a classic friendly walk in the rain to behavior that’s just as archetypal and romantic Montage: Jabari and Meadow ride bikes, take photo booth photos. He watches her work in her darkroom; she looks over his shoulder while he is drawing. They hang out on the couch, take a train to an art park. They brush their teeth side by side. It’s not the kind of story where characters sleep together first and find out things later. (By contrast, a joke about a popular, racy dating app runs through the chapters.) Not that there aren’t things to work out.

Totally recognizable and geographically correct, director Fletcher Moules’ quaint, psychedelic New York is full of life and light. “It just stuns me that people equate New York with gray and darkness when the city is insanely colorful,” says Nadia (rapper 070 Shake), an artist who paints huge cut-out pictures of pizza slices and the Statue of Liberty. It is the aesthetic creed of the film. Parks and storefronts, bodegas and bars, a farmers market and the Flatiron Building are all represented; this is clearly a sculpture by Mark di Suvero in the Kunstpark.

The animation has the step-frame look associated with anime, an economical convenience that has become a conscious style. If the characters sometimes show the expressiveness of the Sims, overall it’s visually appealing, with smart camera angles and frames, and well-defined details. And there are the practical benefits of creating a cartoon: countless locations to use without permits or rental fees; a cast (including Macaulay Culkin as a long-haired street clerk, Arturo Castro as an unhelpful officemate, and Christopher Abbott as Meadows’ photo representative) that would be harder to argue with if they had to get up early and sit down for makeup and wardrobe; and the freedom for actors to play characters they could never play in their own bodies. (Mescudi is 38 and Jabari is significantly younger.)

And there is the freedom to let off steam and comment on the action graphically. There are fantastical scenes – dreams, nightmares, drug-induced visual distortions. Jabari’s paintings come alive. (The great Keith David makes a brief cameo as the voice of Mr. Rager.) Expressing the central love metaphor, Jabari and Meadow float in space amidst the stars and nebulae that is the “galaxy” of “Entergalactic”.

A few subplots notwithstanding — his job, her show — love and relationships take center stage in most of the scenes and conversations, as do the songs that run the soundtrack: “This is the day I’ve been waiting for… Your touch is paralyzing me in the morning / And I don’t want you to go / Sincerely yours forever and ever.” “Love is the easiest thing in the world when it happens by accident,” Jabari’s sister tells him, “but it only comes true when you do it on purpose.” The film’s climax—featuring a speech to a roomful of people meant for a specific person, a spray-painted message, and a hurried trip to a significant location—comes straight out of Notting Hill, when Richard Curtis would be black. 21st century New York hip-hop musicians. It works quite well.

‘Entergalactic’

Where: Netflix

When: Anytime, starting Friday

Valuation: TV-MA (may be unsuitable for children under 17 with warnings about language, nudity, sex and substance abuse)

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/tv/story/2022-09-29/netflix-entergalactic-kid-cudi-review With ‘Entergalactic’ Netflix, Kid Cudi makes a classic rom-com

Sarah Ridley

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