I need to release my inner teenager, the one that urges me go see movies like ATL and You Got Served. I entered the theater feeling slightly embarrassed that I was probably one of the oldest people there, at the ripe age of 26. Oh well, at least I didn’t go alone, I drug two other old souls with me.
Loosely based on the adolescent experiences of music producer Dallas Austin, ATL tells the story of four high school friends and the ups and downs they endure as they prepare to enter adulthood. Rapper T.I. stars as Rashad, leader of the pack and level-headed mentor to a cute knucklehead little brother Anton, played by Diana Ross’ youngest son, Evan Ross Naess. “Brooklyn” can’t keep a job, “Esquire” is the college-bound member of the crew, and Teddy (Jason Weaver of Drumline) is a perpetual senior whose true age is a mystery. Rounding out the cast is Mykelti Williamson (Forrest Gump, Waiting to Exhale) as Rashad and Anton’s uncle and caregiver, “New New,” the sassy object of Rashad’s affection, and Big Boi (one half of Outkast) as Marcus, flossy drug dealer. The city of Atlanta is practically a character as well, because first time director Chris Robinson captures its culture and residents so vividly.
ATL is a difficult movie to critique…I think it should be credited for a somewhat positive depiction of black life, despite the fact that Anton’s character is tempted by the criminal lifestyle. The negative aspects of the movie are tempered by Rashad’s integrity and sense of responsibility to his brother, and also by the light-heartedness we see in the boys’ interaction with each other. At times the movie treads on clichéd ground with familiar themes of remaining true to oneself and the conflict between Rashad and New New, but I enjoyed it despite these shortcomings.
Every rapper thinks he can act nowadays, but T.I. and Big Boi are decent enough. T.I. actually brings a certain endearing sincerity to his role. However, there is room enough for only one toothpick in my life, and Pharrell already has that spot, sorry T.I. Pardon me for getting off track for a second, but T.I. is so skinny this dude actually manages to make a wife beater look baggy. It looked like a friggin’ basketball jersey on him!
I’ll try to help you make up your mind about going to see this one. Did you see Roll Bounce? What about You Got Served? If so, chances are you’ll like ATL. If the thought of either of these movies made you throw up in your mouth a little, then maybe you should take a pass. ATL has more substance than Roll Bounce if you can get past the surface comparisons, but that’s hard to do if you aren’t inclined to see it in the first place. Give it a shot.