Hyper-stylised visuals and a surprisingly unambitious love story come together in Entergalactic, a feature-length companion piece — Netflix is describing it as an ‘event’ — to Kid Cudi’s latest album. Think of the 90-minute movie as a mashup of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’s vibrant animation style and the slipstream of narrative ambition that inspired Beyonce to put out similar companion ‘films’ such as Lemonade and Black is King.
In Entergalactic, Cudi (credited as Scott Mescudi) plays a young street artist named Jabari. When we first meet him, he’s on the cusp of breaking into the big time, and has just moved into his dream apartment in New York City. It’s a tense (and slightly lonely) time for Jabari, as he awaits the green signal on his pitch to a major comic book company, and gathers up the pieces of his broken heart after a failed relationship. Sparks fly instantly when he bumps into his new next-door neighbour Meadow, voiced by Jessica Williams.
Like Jabari, Meadow is an artist teetering on the edge of success; an exhibition of her photography, she tells Jabari on their first ‘date’, is just a month away. How rare is it to see two young Black people, thriving in the field of arts, in such an old-fashioned love story?
But as familiar as the story might be — both Jabari and Meadow are conflicted about whether to focus on their careers or each other — the stunning animation certainly gives it the impression of being more cutting-edge than it actually is. This isn’t a bad thing. In fact, the swooning romance at the centre of Entergalactic gives the film much of its emotional drive, even as director Fletcher Moules injects unexpected (and possibly unnecessary?) action sequences to pump up the volume.
He needn’t have bothered. The film’s primary energy source is the strong writing, especially in the quieter moments, and Cudi’s typically introspective music. This isn’t a musical, nor is it ever implied that music plays a major role in either character’s life — they’re visual artists, more than anything else — but Cudi’s soundscape contributes massively to the film’s spirit.
And Moules makes sure to never forsake small character moments in favour of some of the more expressionistic sequences in film. For instance, minutes after an insert shot of Meadow casually plucking an olive out of Jabari’s drink for herself — how sweet! — the two hightail it out of the party they were at, and ride around nighttime NYC on his beat-up bike. The music soars, as our characters enter a will-they-won’t-they dance of destiny.
Egged on by their friends — Vanessa Hudgens voices Meadow’s bestie, while Timothée Chalamet and Ty Dolla Sign voice Jabari’s stoner bros — the two decide to take the plunge. And while the film doesn’t exactly dwell on this, there’s a sense that both Jabari and Meadow have experienced heartbreak in the past — this is more strongly implied in Jabari’s case than hers. But it’s made them a little reluctant about entering into a relationship relationship. They can try to convince themselves that their careers are getting in the way of what their hearts desire all they want, but those are just excuses. They don’t want to be hurt again.
Blame it on the budget or the tight turnaround time that animated films are usually beholden to, but it often feels like Entergalactic, like its cautious protagonist, is also within touching distance of achieving something greater. I’m not going to spoil where Jabari’s career takes him, but the movie, although perfectly affable, is hardly perfect.
Entergalactic was conceived by Cudi as a series, and sight-unseen, that might have pushed it into slightly narcissistic territory. And anything shorter would’ve reeked of promotional gimmickry. But as it stands, it’s a rather lovely little love story about a particularly euphoric stage in young romance.
Director – Fletcher Moules
Cast – Scott Mescudi, Jessica Williams, Ty Dolla $ign, Timothée Chalamet, Laura Harrier, Vanessa Hudgens, Christopher Abbott, 070 Shake, Jaden Smith, Keith David, Teyana Taylor, Arturo Castro, Macaulay Culkin.