Entergalactic, Netflix’s new “television event” from Kid Cudi and Kenya Barris, feels like a project that might not exist were it not for the specific ways that Beyoncé’s self-titled visual album from 2013 and Sony’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse animated feature both captivated the world’s imagination. Entergalactic’s desire to be a big, multisensory masterwork like those projects is palpable, as is the care that went into developing its gorgeous aesthetics. But Entergalactics’s good looks and ambition are only able to take it but so far as a standalone feature, which is why it works so much better when you go in looking at it as a companion piece to Kid Cudi’s music.
Entergalactic’s surprisingly grounded story about fate, missed connections, and romance revolves around Jabari (Cudi, credited as Scott Mescudi), an artist whose steadily rising profile has given him basically everything he’s been dreaming of. After years of building a personal following with murals and other street art featuring his original characters, Jabari finds himself working full-time at a comic book company where he’s confident that he can take his illustration career to the next level if he plays his cards the right way.
Jabari isn’t always sure which choice is the correct one when it comes to advancing at Cosmic Comics. But after his new gig leads to him moving into a swanky new apartment, Jabari and his good friends Jimmy (Timothée Chalamet) and Ky (Ty Dolla $ign, credited as Tyrone Griffin Jr.) know that he’s doing something right and make a point of celebrating his success. Though everything about Jabari’s come up makes it seem like he’s about to embark on a 20-something bachelor’s odyssey through New York City, that starts to change when he meets his new neighbor Meadow (Jessica Williams), an enigmatic photographer with the chillest of vibes.
Being so newly out of his last relationship with his ex-girlfriend Carmen (Laura Harrier), Jabari doesn’t quite know whether he should be pursuing Meadow. But as Entergalactic opens, the attraction between the pair is undeniable and only grows stronger as the film follows them in and out of one another’s emotional orbits.
Netflix’s Entergalactic works fine enough on its own as a straightforward story about two semi-star-crossed lovers realizing that they’re each other’s people. But the Fletcher Moules-directed feature makes much more sense narratively when you look at it as the visual accompaniment to Entergalactic, Kid Cudi’s forthcoming studio album by the same name that expands upon the mythos of a fictionalized love story first detailed in his 2009 song “Enter Galactic (Love Connection Part I).” As Entergalactic’s story unfolds across the multiple titled chapters breaking up its hour-and-a-half runtime, you can see and feel just how much of its structure and pacing were informed by Entergalactic the album, which here serves as the soundtrack to Jabari’s life.
Even though the story being told in Ian Edelman and Maurice Williams’ script doesn’t always seem as if it’s completely in sync with the different headspaces Cudi finds himself in on Entergalactic’s (the album) tracks, the feature’s careful about trying not to play like an overlong music video dressed up as a movie. Many of the beats that shape Jabari and Meadow’s romance are familiar to the point of being predictable, as is the way that Entergalactic tends to veer into visually and sonically dreamlike territory when it’s zooming in on their relationship. But soon after Jabari and Meadow meet, Entergalactic starts to actually dig into certain pieces of its rom-com trappings in an unexpected way that leads to some of the feature’s strongest set pieces showcasing animation studio DNEG’s talents.
Entergalactic is truly gorgeous in moments, particularly during its many literal dream sequences in which Jabari’s anxieties manifest as a living version of his signature character Mr. Rager (Keith David). But in the same way that you can sometimes feel how the feature was created as a supplement to an album, you also get the sense that Netflix’s Entergalactic really only captures a fraction of the vision Mescudi and Barris had in mind for it when it was announced as a series. That said, in being a feature rather than an episodic story, Entergalactic’s much easier to slip into — perhaps first for the visuals, then staying for the music — and dipping out of in a way that sets it apart from some of the other adult-oriented animated projects out recently.
Entergalactic also stars Vanessa Hudgens, Christopher Abbott, Jaden Smith, Teyana Taylor, and Macaulay Culkin. The feature hits Netflix on September 30th.