'Entergalactic' Review: Kid Cudi Does Adult Animation, Romantic Comedy

‘Entergalactic’ Review: Kid Cudi Does Adult Animation, Romantic Comedy

From the beginning, Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi has approached his career as an artist who would sooner toil in obscurity than be renowned for just one thing. Just two years after dropping “A Kid Named Cudi,” the mixtape that launched him into the spotlight, he was cast in “How to Make It in America,” a short-lived HBO-originals deep cut. In the decade since that show ended in 2011, he’s earned a reputation for bouncing willy-nilly between genres, mediums, and disciplines, and the choices that once seemed fickle now seem confidently eclectic. 

Never has Mescudi looked more like a polymath than with the debut of “Entergalactic,” an animated Netflix special timed to the release of his new studio album (also dropping on Sept. 30), which bears the same title. “Entergalactic” was initially announced in 2019 as a series to be created by Mescudi and Kenya Barris, but has since been whittled down to a 90-minute special (which Netflix is calling an “event”). In its final form, the special feels like it’s being torn in several artistic directions at once, not unlike Mescudi himself. The length and formal relationship with the album suggest a Beyoncé-style visual companion piece, heavy on style and symbolism but without a narrative throughline. (Halsey’s “If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power” is a solid non-Bey example.)

While “Entergalactic” heavily features the music from its namesake album, the music is used to soundtrack a surprisingly conventional romantic comedy. Mescudi provides the face and voice of lead character Jabari, a young visual artist trying to capitalize on the popularity of his street murals by turning them into a comic book series. Jabari is introduced as he’s moving into a cavernous Manhattan loft, a space so cushy relative to his career that it would be distracting if “Entergalactic” were live-action. In the adjacent cavern lives his neighbor Meadow (Jessica Williams), a photographer working up to her first major gallery show.

The pair navigate a series of awkward meet-cutes, then fall hopelessly in love, a process depicted in a montage full of snuggles, autumn walks and creative inspiration. If this all sounds like a straight-down-the-middle romantic comedy about young Black strivers in the big city, that’s because “Entergalactic” is mostly that. There are other thin threads, like Jabari’s complicated relationship with his ex Carmen (Laura Harrier) and the workplace microaggressions he endures trying to create his comic book opus. But it hits every rom-com beat with ruthless precision, complete with the slight derailment and inevitable reconciliation. 

Perhaps the herky-jerky pacing is a result of the project shrinking from an open-ended series to a one-off special. The first half of the “event” has the rhythms of a pilot, introducing a raft of characters to populate Jabari and Meadow’s social circles. Those supporting characters, voiced by a stacked cast including Timothée Chalamet and Jaden Smith, plead for more attention. One of Jabari’s friends Ky (Tyrone Griffin Jr., aka Ty Dolla Sign) tries to convince him not to date his neighbor using a raunchy, hilarious anecdote that gets the biggest laugh. Those flashes of the series-that-might-have-been make “Entergalactic” occasionally frustrating.

All that said, what’s available of “Entergalactic” is frequently intoxicating. Director Fletcher Moules doesn’t miss a single opportunity to add beautifully animated flourishes to the script written by Mescudi, Ian Edelman, and Maurice Williams. There are sublime musical numbers, for lack of a better term, that let Mescudi’s music breathe and crank the visuals to 11. But the shifts between “Entergalactic’s” spacy elements and its grounded moments aren’t always smooth, another consequence of the series-to-special evolution. There’s much to love about Mescudi’s love story, except the fact that there isn’t more of it to love. 

“Entergalactic” premieres on Netflix on Sept. 30.