Sam Jackson and Bernie Mac Co-Star in Rollicking Road Comedy
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Rated R for nudity, sexuality, ethnic slurs and pervasive profanity.
Running time: 100 minutes
Studio: The Weinstein Company
Film Review by Kam Williams
Very Good (2.5 stars)
Directed by Malcolm Lee (Undercover Brother), Soul Men is an adult-oriented adventure which easily earns its R rating, as it relies heavily on salty language and a decidedly blue brand of humor. The film's formulaic premise is familiar enough, despite the overindulgence in profanity, the N-word, coarse humor and graphic sexuality.
Shamelessly borrowing elements from The Blues Brothers, Thelma & Louise and Trains, Planes and Automobiles and other buddy flicks, this rollicking road comedy makes up for its lack of originality with an earthy enthusiasm and infectious energy likely to endear it with any audience. Another plus is the sense of nostalgia generated by the movie's postscript affectionately acknowledging the passing of both Bernie Mac and Isaac Hayes, a couple of cultural icons who died after shooting was completed but prior to the picture's release.
Floyd Henderson (Mac) and Louis Hinds (Samuel L. Jackson) are former R&B legends who sang backup in a trio which a generation ago enjoyed a string of chart-topping hits. However, the group disbanded after front man Marcus Hooks (John Legend) decided to pursue a solo career. Floyd and Louis then tried touring as a duo, but a love triangle with a woman named Odetta (Monyetta Shaw) led to their breakup and quick slide into obscurity.
Now, 20 years later, Marcus has just died and the music industry is planning a big tribute concert to him at the Apollo Theater in five days. Floyd sees this as an opportunity to mount a comeback. So, he shows up unannounced at Louis' home to find that his estranged partner's still wants nothing to do with him, at least until a promise of a 60-40 split of the $40,000 purse.
With Louis conveniently afraid of flying, the two agree to drive cross country from L.A. to New York in what else but a classic convertible, a staple of the road genre, in this case a vintage Cadillac Eldorado. Floyd has already booked warm-up gigs at nightclubs in several cities they’re planning to pass through en route, so that they’ll be ready to perform by the time they hit the stage at the Apollo.
Of course, judging from movies, the whole point of embarking on any road trip is the concatenation of calamities which invariably ensue, and Soul Men certainly has its share of such surprises, ranging from a flat tire to a heckler to a drunken fan to a stint in jail to a one-night stand with a toothless groupie (Jennifer Coolidge). The plot thickens when our heroes rendezvous with Cleo (Sharon Leal), an aspiring-singer who might be the long-lost daughter of one of them by way of Odetta. Cleo accepts the pair's offer to join the group and the trio arrives at the Apollo with the paternity issue resolved and right on time to give dearly-departed Marcus a glorious sendoff.
Yeah, you’ll laugh here and there at the outrageous antics of Bernie and Sam (who even prove they can sing and dance here), given their screen chemistry and larger than life personas. Just don't expect the flava of this cinematic equivalent of bubblegum to last past the closing credits and you won’t be disappointed.