One of the best animated efforts by Netflix this year isn’t for kids. Not very young ones anyway.
“Entergalactic,” inspired by and paired with Kid Cudi’s latest album, didn’t even need to be animated. It’s an utterly conventional young Black New Yorkers on the rise romance that somehow required five screenwriters to conceptualize the artsy not-quite-Buppy lovers and invent seriously mundane obstacles to their love.
But first-time feature director Fletcher Moules, who counts “Lego Star Wars: The Padewan Menace” among his credits, and production house DNEG give the characters a rough, chiseled Lego-ish look and movement. Production designer Robh Ruppel turns Manhattan into a lurid, splashy Skittles-scape. Animating “Entergalactic” lights this story up and expands its possibilities, from anime-inspired flashbacks, to trippy (stoned) dream sequences and an artist hallucinating his break-through creation to life.
We meet Jabari (voiced by Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi) as he is moving into a swank loft that suggests the young man has made it. Sure, he still scoots around town on his “pegs,” his Mongoose BMX bike. And he’s still tagging the city with his “Mr. Rager” graffiti, stark, sharp-edged and stylized images of a blacker-than-black avenger/hep cat.
In his dreams and more edible-or-joint-flavored moments, he can even hear the guy and his demonic laugh. Of course Mr. Rager sounds like Keith David. And of course Jabari is moving on up, because he’s sold the character to a comics publisher where he’s working to bring Rager to book form.
Jabari stumbles into his gorgeous ex Carmen (Laura Harrier), who is instantly over whatever “Forget You” impulse might have driven the split, seeing as how he’s now a man with possibilities.
His boys, Ky (Ty Dolla $ign), Jimmy (Timothée Chalamet) and Downtown Pat (Macaulay Culkin), might endorse second chance love or whatever the kids are calling “hit it and quit it” these days. But Jabari isn’t falling into the new “Chill Carmen,” who is plainly still Miss High Maintenance, not if he can help it.
Can he? Help it? Because now that he’s Uptown, he’s got a head-turner of an artist neighbor Meadow (Jessica Williams). And all the “Never f–k your neighbor” advice in the world isn’t likely to stop the attraction.
Meadow spends her days taking street pictures and her evenings either at art openings or getting an R-rated earful from her hormonal, pregnant and down for Meadow getting down bestie Karina (Vanessa Hudgens).
Can young, hip, monied 20somethings find love and happiness in the big, impersonal and never-more-colorful city?
The “Young, Gifted and Black” story is broken into chapters which don’t take their names from the titles of tunes on the Kid Cudi LP. We get cute scenes where Jabari sweeps Meadow off her dressed-to-impress feet from an art world party that bores her.
“You know I came here in a Maybach, right?”
“Well, you’re leaving on a Mongoose!”
The courtship feels natural, organic. He insults her taste in music (they meet when her latest party goes too late and too loud), she tricks him into vegetarian burgers, which he’s just mocked, by asking “You trust me?” at her favorite diner.
And the banter with “the boys” has a nice snap, even if the script leans heavily on the street argot of the moment, something that always has a whiff of “trying too hard to be hip” and instantly dates any film — animated or otherwise.
It’s the look that sells this film, and it’s visually arresting, a movie inspired by an album that benefits from a vast array of smart choices — from voices to production design, color palette to comic book flashbacks.
I can’t say the dreamy Kid Cudi hip hop that inspired the movie helps or hurts the storytelling. It’s just there, pleasant enough but indistinct background music, I thought. The movie’s more memorable than the LP.
Rating: TV-MA, drug use, sex, profanity
Cast: The voices of Kid Cudi, Jessica Williams, Laura Harrier, Vanessa Hudgens, Ty Dolla $ign, Timothée Chalamet, Macaulay Culkin and Keith David.
Credits: Directed by Fletcher Moules, scripted by Ian Edelman, Maurice Williams, Esa Lewis, Sidney Schleiff and Judnick Mayard, story based on an album by Kid Cudi. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:33