Judge Bill Gibron loves to get his excellent animated freak on.
Get ready for "a lifetime supply of money, clothes, and hos!"
Before it was systematically dismantled in the 1990s, Freaknik was a beloved African American tradition. For the predominantly black colleges in and around Atlanta (and the rest of the South), the Spring Break celebration was a welcome alternative to the white bread wash-out of other secondary education vacations. In its heyday, it attracted a quarter of a million participants and was targeted by marketers of both professional and pop culture choices. After numerous complaints about lewd behavior, public intoxication, and other community affronts, city officials started cracking down. By the year 2000, Freaknik was a ghost, a spirit of something special still floating around in the memories of many and within certain rap lyrics. Leave it to Tallahassee's own T-Pain to try and bring back the sun and fun feel of those hopeful, hedonistic days with his animated musical of the same name. Though it's actually the story of competing groups and a road trip to regain some of Freaknik's former glory, we do get a lot of well-meaning all-star reminiscences of a time when modesty and good manners were pushed aside so that everyone could have one Hell of a time.
As our cartoon tale begins, we learn of the death of Freaknik (T-Pain, Lottery Ticket) and his eventual resurrection. Indeed, when an old man at a house party thrown by Kid and Play summons the feisty spirit, the ghost reinstates the event and announces a rap contest. This makes Florida group the Sweet Tea Mobsters—Virgil (Young Cash), Big Uzi (Rick Ross), and Light Skin (Cee-lo Green)—giddy, since it means they can finally get their stories of surviving the Sunshine State out to the public. With the help of their pot dealing buddy Doela Man (DJ Pooh), they start off to Atlanta. Along the way, Light Skin warns them of the conspiracy against the African American community by its own people—an influential group of Ten Percenters: Oprah (Kelis), Al Sharpton (Charlie Murphy, Chappelle's Show), Bill Cosby, Russell Simmons, OJ Simpson—known as "The Boule." They will do whatever they can to destroy Freaknik and anyone associated with it.
As they make their way up I-75, they come across as couple of coddling Frat Boys (Bill Hader, Adventureland and Andy Samberg, Hot Rod) and their slick hip-hop pals—and clear commercial competition—the Fruit Bowl Boys (Kel Mitchell, Good Burger and Affion Crockett, Dance Flick). Taking a wrong turn, they end up in New Orleans and meet up with a gangster (Snoop Dogg, Soul Plane) who introduces them to local kingpin Trap Jesus (Lil Wayne, Hurricane Season). With some passionate advice and the loan of his Lamborghini, the Sweet Tea Mobsters are back on their way. In the meantime, our haunting hero has taken over the country, unseating Barrack Obama to become President. This enrages the Boule, who send a robotic version of Al Sharpton to destroy Freaknik once and for all. It will all play out during a battle of the band where the Fruit Bowl Boys will be exposed as poseurs, the "Perminator" will meet its match in members of the Mothership Connection, and everyone will have one earth-quaking, booty shaking good time.
Freaknik: The Musical is so much fun, so effervescent and overflowing with funk-a-licious joy that it's hard not to fall in love with. T-Pain and his friends do a delightful job of deconstructing the entire situation, from what caused the ban to how such social engineering is ridiculous, that you want to raise a placard and protest the unnecessary act. With the great musical accompaniment and the masterful voice acting, this could become an animated tradition, like It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown or Christmas Is. On the other hand, don't come to Freaknik without some knowledge of the African American experience. There are many jokes here that will fly over the head of the average suburbanite, and more importantly, the language and parlance definitely cater to a specific demo. This doesn't mean you can't appreciate or even marvel at the surrealistic drawings and rollicking spirit inherent in the title. But Freaknik: The Musical is really meant for those with a deep understanding of the modern urban experience in America, and how Boule-like forces have fought to undermine and redefine it since the beginning. It's a buck wild time, but a sly and very smart one too.
The presentation by Adult Swim and Williams Street couldn't be better. The image is excellent, the 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer revealing animation details the typical presentation might miss. The colors truly pop, and there is a dense feel to all the details. Even better, this disc provides TWO versions of the show—the original 44 minute film and an unrated, extended cut running approximately two minutes longer. The differences are minimal (mostly in the curse-laden lyrics), but fun to look for. On the sound side of things, you get a stellar Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix that treats the excellent score with all the bass thumping power it can muster. The dialogue is easily discernible and the overall approach, while a tad manic, is well balanced. As for extras, we are treated to a commentary track from T-Pain, Young Frye, and One Chance. Unlike most stars, they fail to remember why they are sitting down to talk. Instead, they reminisce a little, rip on each other (and those not in attendance), and sit silently as large parts of the story play out. They are watching Freaknik more than discussing it, which is kind of a disappointment. There is also a selection of four music videos from the film.
With an underground movement striving to restate the biggest little picnic in the world and a wealth of fond memories to draw from, Freaknik: The Musical is a buoyant, brazen experience. You may not fully appreciate everything it's trying to do, but it sure is a hoot trying to come to such an understanding.
Not Guilty. T-Pain and the gang deliver a solid slice of forgotten fun.
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