carried an awful lot of extra baggage with it when it reached theaters.
This was because this past summer, as filming of the movie was winding down,
over a 24-hour period one of the stars (Bernie Mac) and a well-known
supporting actor and musical contributor to the movie (Isaac Hayes) both
tragic circumstance is of course no fault of the movie’s, however it turns
out that the deaths cast a pall over the whole enterprise. It is a pall
that a lightweight trifle like Soul Men will have a hard time
fact, the filmmakers acknowledge this fact and do a heartfelt tribute to
Bernie Mac (and to a lesser extent Isaac Hayes) over the closing credits.
While it is a nice gesture on the movie’s part and obviously done of great
love, it feels awkward following the light comedy which preceded it. It
doesn’t help that they don’t exactly sell their point. They show Bernie Mac
talking about how important his stand-up comedy is to him and then cut to a
few quick clips of him doing some of the weakest stand-up the talented comic
ever performed. Couldn’t they have found some better clips?
However, it is not fair to judge Soul Men due to its heartbreaking
aftermath. It should be taken for its own values as a film. Sadly, here
also it doesn’t live up to its potential. Soul Men wastes good
performances by Mac and Samuel L. Jackson (if not exactly earthshakingly
unique for either actor – both had played variations of
these roles many times before) on a clunky,
rather clichéd, broad farce.
Soul Men is
actually a loose variation on Neil Simon’s classic screwball comedy The
Sunshine Boys – in which the estranged former stars of a famed showbiz
team have to reunite after years of hard feelings for one last comeback
performance. Of course in Soul Men they are an R&B backing group
rather than the vaudeville comics of Sunshine Boys, but the basics
are the same.
and Jackson play former R&B stars Floyd Henderson and Louis Hinds. They had
been the members of The Real Deal – the backing vocalists for soul
Marcus Hooks (John Legend). After Hooks goes solo, the backing band’s
career tanks. They fight over a woman and
break up the group, eventually settling
their lives away from the spotlight. Hinds is in and out of jail over the years,
while Henderson makes a boring living owning car washes. The opportunity
for them to perform again comes when Hooks dies and they are asked to
reunite for a tribute concert for the singer who years before had left them
Frankly, neither Mac nor Jackson was quite a good enough singer to buy them
in the roles. This is particularly noticeable when a real singer is given
the microphone – specifically Legend in flashbacks as the Real Deal’s former
leader and Sharon Leal (Boston Public, DreamGirls) as the daughter of
the woman both men once loved, who is forced by chance to become their
backing vocalist and just happens to turn out to be a kick-ass soul singer.
Mac and Jackson’s vocals, while not horrible, just can’t come close to
two singers have to take a road trip together across country in Henderson’s
vintage Caddy – getting on each other’s nerves, learning to perform again,
meeting up with groupies (funny comedienne Jennifer Coolidge is completely
shamed in this trashy role), fighting, getting into
crashes and eventually making an uneasy truce.
of it is particularly clever, nor is any of it particularly surprising.
Some parts – particularly scenes with an oddly embalmed-looking crazy
gangsta rapper who has it out for the guys – are downright stupid.
go into the movie wanting to like Soul Men, but it just isn’t all
that good. Sadly, if not for its tragic back story, no one in the world
would remember Soul Men at all five minutes after it left the
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2009 PopEntertainment.com.
All rights reserved. Posted: January 31, 2009.