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Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi’s new Netflix collaboration, “Entergalactic,” is hard to categorize. It’s billed as a “television event” and an “animated story.” With a 92-minute running time, I am tempted to call it a film, albeit one divided into sections (which show up as chapter titles, not full episode breaks).
And yet “Entergalactic” lacks many of the things that make up a film. There is a plot, following the typical beats of a romance. But there’s not enough action to say it's powered by narrative.
This isn’t a character study either. Kid Cudi as Jabari doesn’t have fully baked motivations or experience some profound growth. Neither does his love interest Meadow, voiced by Jessica Williams. Williams and Mescudi both give admirable performances as do their supporting cast members with amusing bits by surprising voices like Macaulay Culkin as Downtown Pat, sharing his (lack of) wisdom in love to Jabari, Jimmy (Timothée Chalamet), and Jordan (Jaden Smith). But as fun as these characters are, they exist more as vibes than as people.
And on the vibe level, “Entergalactic” totally works. It may not be a movie or a TV show but it’s certainly more than an extended music video. It’s an experimental form, using plot and characters to present a collage of multisensory art.
The animation is stunning, presenting a mix of comic book and street art aesthetics. This look reflects our protagonist’s worldview as a graffiti muralist turned comic book creator. We are seeing the world through his eyes, with dashes of the perspectives of the other artists in “Entergalactic.” The piece is full of them: Meadow is a photographer and one of the major plot points revolves around a group show she’s doing.
One of her fellow exhibitors Nadia (070 Shake) introduces her art with “it just gets me tight that people equate New York with gray and darkness when the city’s mad colorful. Even the people are so colorful. So in my work, I try to showcase that.” It’s an ethos that could describe “Entergalactic” itself, which mixes color and black and white scapes to build contrast and drama. Jabari has made a name for himself through large murals of a black-and-white character Mr. Rager (Keith David) who appears in contrast with the vibrant New York around him. It helps that Jabari and Meadow have their own unique take on the city, traveling from what buddy Jimmy calls a “one-percent” apartment to back alleys to elite parties to bicycle lanes.
Together, these visuals depict a similar NYC as the award-winning animation of 2018’s “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” just more grown up. This story doesn’t follow comic book characters but rather the people who make them. We get scenes about sex, drug use, and hangovers.
We also get some of Kid Cudi’s politics, which he interweaves smartly throughout “Entergalactic.” When we’re first meeting Meadow, we see her tell her non-Black best friend Karina (Vanessa Hudgens, having fun with her over-the-top character) that all white guys look the same to her, including her manager Reed (Christopher Abbott)—and they’re all ruled out of her dating pool. Why? “Oppression,” she says in a one-word, pithy answer, showing her bad bitch bona fides.
“Entergalactic” is decidedly and unapologetically Black, even as its characters exist in a multiracial world. At his comic book job, Jabari is skeptical of the light-skinned Puerto Rican Len (Arturo Castro) who tries to make a common bond with him, even as his friend group covers the spectrum of human skin tones.
And on gender too, “Entergalactic” asserts a progressive point of view. Both Jabari and Meadow are flawed, dynamic people who have to compromise and grow to find happiness—both are equally human. Furthering this feminist perspective, Jabari tells his buddy Ky (Ty Dolla $ign) to “Stop saying bitches,” modeling what healthy masculinity looks when no feminine eyes are looking. And in a scene that rings true to my experience as a sibling, Jabari calls upon his sister Ellie (Maisha Mescudi) for love advice. She gives it to him straight—bringing the exact right mix of knowledge about women, her brother, and the way the world works.
And that’s before we get to the music.
Kid Cudi has made a name for himself—in music, fashion, and general pop culture—for a reason. His lush numbers here will surely appeal to hip hop heads and neophytes alike. These songs capture the ups and downs of romance and the search for identity that also goes with it. Here, there’s no abrasive aggression or boasting bluster. Instead, it’s soul searching stuff. It's the type of music anyone can relate to.
As an art piece, “Entergalactic” is evocative, beautiful, and smart. I can picture it playing at parties for decades to come. Just don’t approach it as a TV show.
On Netflix today.
Kid Cudi as Jabari (voice)
Jessica Williams as Meadow (voice)
Timothée Chalamet as Jimmy (voice)
Ty Dolla Sign as Ky (voice)
Laura Harrier as Carmen (voice)
Vanessa Hudgens as Karina (voice)
Christopher Abbott as Reed (voice)
Jaden Smith as Jordan (voice)
Keith David as Mr. Rager (voice)