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Overall Rating
1.93

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 3.45%
Just Average: 31.03%
Pretty Crappy: 20.69%
Sucks44.83%

4 reviews, 5 user ratings


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Soul Men
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by Erik Childress

"They Bury The Promotion & Mandy Lane But Release This?"
1 stars

One of the worst movies of 2007 was the one-laugh comedy, Wild Hogs. Literally filled with one single laugh (courtesy not of its high-profile cast, but great character actor Stephen Tobolowsky) it was the story of some aging friends getting in touch with their inner Easy Rider on a wacky road trip. Comedies don’t get much worse. Yet here I am looking forward to 2009’s Old Dogs featuring Hogs star John Travolta (w/Robin Williams) and Hogs director Walt Becker (also of Van Wilder.) Why if I have zero confidence in its helmer and writers? Because I refuse to see Bernie Mac go out on a project as woeful and mishandled as Soul Men. What is sure to be touted as both the swan songs of Mac as well as soul legend Isaac Hayes, Soul Men is an absolute embarrassment for all involved and is liable to produce tears of sadness not for their untimely passing but that anyone would be so cold to even release it. Honestly, if the Weinsteins had any soul themselves they would take this film and bury it along with every other film they seem to these days instead of trying to cash it in as some misbegotten tribute to his legacy.

Back in the days of Motown and Stax Records, one of the hottest acts was Marcus Hooks and the Real Deal. Hooks (a brief cameo by musician John Legend) naturally was the lead while Louis Hinds (Samuel L. Jackson) and Floyd Henderson (Bernie Mac) were the backup. When the lead went solo, Louis and Floyd tried their hands at their own album, only to be forgotten about and lead separate lives after years of in-fighting. Floyd flourished in the car wash industry (where a commercial urging you to come in for your free rimjob sets your humor tone for the rest of the film) while Louis ended up in jail and living alone in squalor. Then something wonderful happens. Marcus dies and Floyd is phoned by a record executive (Sean Hayes) who is organizing a tribute to the late singer at Radio City Music Hall and he wants the Real Deal to perform. Only it’s a package deal. No Louis. No gig.

After convincing his former partner with a greater share of the check, the pair must take to the road since Louis refuses to fly. At this point someone with a far more optimistic attitude will remind you that it’s the journey not the destination that makes a movie. Then I will remind you that 2008 has already used this particular premise to subject us to the likes of Strange Wilderness, Bonneville, College Road Trip, Sleepwalking, Stop-Loss, Sex Drive and The Lucky Ones. Only George Romero was able to make this old concept fly this year and he helped himself by having zombies kill off many of the passengers. Soul Men is the worst kind of big screen road trip film because it has no interest in a cohesive dramatic arc that would make us care for these guys even in a manipulative way and it’s not a family film that can be forgiven simply by dismissing it as some PG-fluff for the kids. Even Martin Lawrence couldn’t think up as many “motherfucker”s in his head for signing onto College Road Trip than there are in Soul Men.

During the film I regressed myself back to the Bill Cosby sketch where his father said “Dammit” and “Jesus Christ” so often that him and his brother believed those were their names. By the end of the film you wouldn’t be surprised if Jackson and Mac were actually referred to in the credits as “Motherfucker #1” and “Motherfucker #2.” Normally I refrain from using said language within a review but I’m honestly at a loss at what else to present you as standing out from this film. Since their characters are clearly based on the legendary Sam Moore and Dave Prater, even you set aside all the opportunities for poignancy and reminiscence about the glory days of R&B, at the very least it should have fun presenting that music especially with Jackson and Mac proudly performing their own vocals. Sorry, did I just use the word “proudly” there? No, I’m not going to harp on their singing as if it were a reunion of the Beatles’ wives, but it’s the musical numbers themselves that are performed and constructed by director Malcolm D. Lee in such a inanimate and unironic geriatric fashion that its more uncomfortable and enraging than seeing a stage parent try to egg on their pre-schooler to lip sync during a talent show.

What should have at least elevated Soul Men to a few tolerable moments thus sinks it even further into territory that is indefensible by comedy standards. Screenwriters Robert Ramsey & Matthew Stone (responsible for Destiny Turns On The Radio and 2005’s Tommy Lee Jones protects the cheerleaders opus, Man of the House) bankrupt this film right from the start with the rimjob jab and continue to lower the bar from there. They introduce a gun for Louis which Floyd can continually mishandle. There’s a mother/daughter groupie team that involves missing teeth, angry fathers and the first of multiple Viagra jokes. A wannabe rapper and part-time woman beater played by Affion Crockett makes you long for a drive-by shooting just so you can crack a smile. An eager wannabe road manager (Adam Herschman) is enough to make you pull the trigger yourself. And for dramatic purposes, the script introduces a potential long-lost daughter (Sharon Leal) and a terminal illness – both of which reveal themselves to be red herrings to inspire further wackiness and “motherfuckers”

It’s disconcerting that on the same weekend a film like Role Models can prove that a standard-issue plotline can produce huge laughs with talented comedic actors and a director who knows how to find them while Soul Men manages to come up way shorter in the laugh department than the Holocaust tragedy, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. Walking my way through the city, utterly depressed after the film’s screening and pondering my rating, I couldn’t talk myself into a reason that this film deserved any part of a star. I honestly wish I had more positives to say about Bernie Mac’s film career which nearly comes to end on such a lowlight like Soul Men. Audiences may turn out of respect for Mac (treated also to Isaac Hayes who plays himself) and it may turn out to be the Weinstein’s biggest hit since Rob Zombie’s Halloween, not to mention the most unwatchable. But I’d rather have Bernie’s fans go back and watch reruns of his television show, or how funny he was in his brief appearances in the numbered Ocean films (especially the first one) because even though we’ll be forced to look forward to next year’s Old Dogs to see his true final appearance, the zero confidence in that film is actually an improvement after one sees Soul Men.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=17055&reviewer=198
originally posted: 11/07/08 00:00:00
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User Comments

2/15/09 Tony Rent Tapeheads instead. "You don't dig for gold in another man's mine." -Bernie Mac 3 stars
11/23/08 George Barksdale Loved Bernie Mac's and did enjoy this movie. He will be missed. 3 stars
11/12/08 PAUL SHORTT CRUDE AND UNFUNNY, LESS FITTING TRIBUTE THAN MAJOR DISAPPOINTMENT 1 stars
11/10/08 Colleen H anything with Bernie Mac is worth a look, but generally the whole thing was average. 3 stars
11/09/08 stephen goodridge Lved bernie's performance 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  07-Nov-2008 (R)
  DVD: 10-Feb-2009

UK
  N/A

Australia
  07-Nov-2008
  DVD: 10-Feb-2009


Directed by
  Malcolm D. Lee

Written by
  Robert Ramsey
  Matthew Stone

Cast
  Samuel L. Jackson
  Bernie Mac



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