*1/2 (out of 5)
November 7, 2008
Samuel L. Jackson as LOUIS HINDS
Bernie Mac as FLOYD HENDERSON
Sharon Leal as CLEO
Adam Herschman as PHILLIP
Sean Hayes as DANNY EPSTEIN
Affion Crockett as LESTER
Jennifer Coolidge as ROSALEE
Directed by: Malcolm D. Lee
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Not too long ago, I heard somebody compare “Soul Men” as Bernie Mac’s last starring role to Heath Ledger’s swan song in “The Dark Knight.” And while there is a certain comparison to be made in that they were two people who died unexpectedly, these films are about as different as you can get.
Ledger’s performance as the Joker was a career-making turn, whether or not he had passed away. It’s one of the highest grossing movies of all time and has reset the gold standard for the genre. “Soul Men,” on the other hand, is a terrible, terrible film that would have been an insignificant blip on Bernie Mac’s career had he not died shortly after it was done.
In many ways, I find it very sad that this is going to be remembered as Mac’s last movie (although a quick IMDb search reveals that he’s got a couple posthumous works in the pipeline). It’s a terrible way to end a career. Think of it as if Heath Ledger had followed up “The Dark Knight” with the awful film “The Order,” then passed. It’s sad to see Bernie Mac, such a grand comedian with a great career, end it all with such a sour note.
“Soul Men” was a good concept, in its defense. The idea to pair up Mac with Samuel L. Jackson was brilliant. It’s too bad the filmmakers weren’t sure exactly what they were trying to do.
The film tells the story of two back-up singers from a popular group in the 1970s. When their lead singer went solo, Louis Hinds (Jackson) and Floyd Henderson (Mac) tried to make a career of their own. However, they never found the success they had before, and they went their separate ways.
Now they are has-been, but they’ve been offered a grand opportunity to perform at the funeral of their former frontman. The two former band mates must deal with their own interpersonal issues and other circumstances while they make the long road trip from Los Angeles to the Apollo Theater in New York City.
“Soul Men” suffers from a serious lack of focus. On one hand, it tries to be an edgy comedy with oodles of off-color references and uncomfortable sexual situations. Within the first fifteen minutes, we see Bernie Mac having unattractive sex with various old broads, only to watch him get a prostate exam. I’m all for raunchy comedies and over-the-top humor, but old folks having sex isn’t on my agenda.
On the other hand, the movie tries to be a relatively hard look at the music industry. Think of it as “Dreamgirls” without all the flash, glamour, good music and Academy Award worthy material. In an attempt to make the film gritty and realistic, the filmmakers just let Jackson and Mac curse up a storm and yell at each other a lot.
On yet another hand, the movie tries to have heart. It attempts a serious message about family and friendship, and even as things wrap up near the end, it can’t resist a cheesy climax that’s meant to make everyone feel good.
There are a few funny moments, and both Bernie Mac and Samuel L. Jackson are both fine actors, but they’re really slumming it in this needlessly crude and overly sappy film. But then again, what else would you expect from the director that gave us this February’s pinnacle of cinema tripe, “Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins”?