After releasing an astoundingly creative album, Tip “T.I.” Harris headlines the long-awaited film “ATL” in the same week. In what many believe will be the crucial point of T.I.’s career, “ATL” gives little to no idea of what really goes on in everyday Atlanta, aside from roller skating and drug dealing.
The movie highlights the lives of miscellaneous, undeveloped characters circling an obscure town in Mechanicsville, Ga., right outside Atlanta.
The focus, Rashad (T.I., in his big-screen debut), is a high school senior who acts as a narrator to the inner-workings of the Atlanta folk. The movie seems to revolve around the local skating rink, Cascade, where everyone shows up on Sunday night. The ATL style is definitely represented with spinning rims both on their rides and inside their skates. Rashad’s crew, “The Ones,” are preparing for Skate Wars, Cascade’s team roller-skating competition coming in the following month. The kids spend more time at the rink than they do at school, especially Rashad’s younger brother Ant (newcomer Evan Ross Naess), who takes a step into the drug game.
The most captivating aspect of the film is the romance between Rashad and mysterious New New, played by newcomer Lauren London. Her ridiculous name is only amplified by her irritatingly exaggerated Southern slang and twang, with enough missing consonants to fill a bowl of alphabet soup. You can tell there’s chemistry between the two, but the movie’s cramped time frame, roughly a month, leaves the relationship a series of disjointed moments of courting, flirting and sex.
In contrast to other hood movies “ATL” has been compared to, the film avoids a central theme and jumps from one story to the next without any deeper insight. Many key characters go undeveloped. Uncle George (Mykelti Williamson, “Forrest Gump”), the man who takes in Rashad and Ant after their parents’ death, seems to be an essential character – but all we find out is that he’s stingy with his cereal.
Though the cinematography is superb, with wide camera angles that accent the vibrant lights and excitement of Cascade, the movie’s biggest visual interest is the countless camera shots of beautiful Georgia peach booties: They seem to go on forever.
This is not to mention that T.I.’s acting is lackluster at best; every emotion seems the same. When he’s mad he seems indifferent, when he’s happy he seems indifferent, when he’s indifferent … well, you get the point. Every scene appears to come back to Rashad, and T.I. just isn’t captivating.
So this is not his forte. Now we know that an hour and a half of T.I. rapping is always better than an hour and a half of him acting.
Film Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
At the Showcase and Quality 16