Kid Cudi’s new Netflix special “Entergalactic” has inevitably drawn comparisons to “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” due to similar animation, but it feels much more like a grown-up version. Instead of the main characters occupying a heroes and villains sphere, Kid Cudi’s world is fully seated in a reality where the relatable simultaneous fear and desire for love occupy the minds of the two leads.
“Entergalactic,” covered in multiple chapters, follows Jabari and Jessica Williams’ Meadow — neighbors in a lively New York City backdrop. Jabari is a rising graffiti artist who gets attention for his “Mr. Rager” character, while Meadow is a photographer with an upcoming gallery opening. These two leads eventually meet and find a connection with one another.
This special follows the typical romantic comedy formula filmgoers have seen time and time again. While that concept lies at its core, the execution around it styles the movie into a beautiful piece of artwork. The opening shot sets this tone, with Jabari floating through a colorful dreamscape filled with rumblings of a banging Kid Cudi beat until he’s plucked down to Earth by the hollering of a moving company worker. These visuals don’t let up throughout, and intensify during later musical sequences. The sequences feel like a collection of Kid Cudi music videos, which are readily accompanied by songs from the “Entergalactic” album.
The songs that permeate throughout the special are some of Kid Cudi’s sweetest and most heartfelt tracks to date. The lyrics capture the emotions of Jabari and Meadow as they experience love, excitement, hurt and fear. Kid Cudi singing “I got you, don’t worry love,” while Jabari and Meadow brush their teeth together and exchange a joint, shows how this special expertly captures real moments within the trippy atmosphere it often portrays. These songs never feel like too much and add to the multisensory phenomenon Kid Cudi creates.
Centering the plot on two artists in an animation style that mimics moving paintings feels like an ode to art itself and how it can engross you. Almost every shot looks like a painting worth buying. A shot of the city sunset, Jabari standing on his balcony where the color comes from the reflections of windows across the street and a close-up of Meadow pressing her head against the window are more than just eye-catching. They are completely captivating.
Kid Cudi uses style to not only describe emotions but also comedic stories. Otherwise normal real stories are boosted by uses of different animation, such as an anime drawing style recounting of Meadow’s friend Karina —
played by Vanessa Hudgens — having sex with a man in a Japanese restaurant bathroom. These scenes provide an exaggerated visual of the events depicted, which is where that boost from the dynamic animation really works well.
The special makes statements on technology, gender and race, which vary in subtlety. A fictional dating app “Stush” shows up on phone screens, billboards and other advertisements throughout the film, but its treatment feels one-dimensional at best, especially in one concluding scene. Statements that weave into the characters work on a much better level, like Jabari casually telling his friend Ky — voiced by Ty Dolla $ign — to not refer to women as “bitches” during a friend-to-friend conversation.
The special falls back in line when it has to tend to typical plot beats near the end, but the characters have already been portrayed well enough to excuse it.
Style over substance is a statement used often by critics, yet there are cases in cinema where style can boost the substance. Kid Cudi manages to achieve this feat by delivering a vibrant, trippy world while never forgetting what Jabari and Meadow are all about. As Meadow describes at the end of the movie, she likes the “ability to just pause a moment forever, in the hopes of the impossibility of just getting back to it.” Life never lets you pause at the most amazing moments, but sometimes works of art like “Entergalactic” can bring you back to the emotions you felt when you first experienced them.