Where’s the soul?
Soul Men is a sub-par comedy that takes the audience on an adventure with two soul legends — estranged friends of 20 years who reunite and take a road trip to perform at the funeral of their other ex-groupmate (played by singer John Legend). Unfortunately, this film doesn’t get many laughs until the ending credits when footage is shown of the late Bernie Mac performing a stand-up comedy routine. With repetitive punch lines, guns, and fights, this film lacks the charisma that one might have been expecting; it’s a bad combination of the films The Banger Sisters and The Blues Brothers. The blame, though, is certainly not on the actors, but on the mediocre and simply unimpressive script itself.
Mac, one of the Original Kings of Comedy, plays the role of Floyd Henderson, a recent retiree trying to reunite the soul group of which he once loved being a member. Having just handed over his car-wash business to his nephew and moving to a suburban neighborhood, Floyd is looking for something to be excited about; one could say he is experiencing a midlife crisis. Samuel L. Jackson, known for his roles in films like Coach Carter and Pulp Fiction, plays the role of Louis Hinds, a fresh-out-of-jail and stubborn man who is by no means interested in singing in a group again. Not only does he have a quick temper, he also lacks motivation.
Floyd and Louis were best friends at one point, despite the fact that their personalities clashed. While Floyd is more of a thinker, Louis acts without thinking. This friendship came to a halt when Floyd stole Louis’ girlfriend, and then Louis stole her back and got her pregnant, resulting in a daughter, Cleo (played by actress Sharon Leal). Floyd doesn’t know this minor detail until the last 30 minutes of this film, but unfortunately the audience is already privy to this because the production team decided to give away the entire plot in the movie trailer. No mystery there.
Throughout Soul Men, Floyd and Louis spend the majority of their time on a road trip from California to Memphis, Tenn. Along the way, they stop at numerous taverns and clubs to rehearse for their big performance. While these scenes do attempt to offer some comedic moments for the audience, the weak script sticks out like a sore thumb. Some of the jokes are just unsalvageable. It seemed as if the film was a lot of detached events put together to form one story, and it just didn’t work. Calling each other “m f-ers” and “s.o.b.s” is only funny so many times, and then it becomes forced, awkward, and unnecessary.
Despite the obvious lack of humor in Soul Men, seeing it is definitely bittersweet because the audience is able to reminisce on the talented lives of Mac and R&B legend Isaac Hayes, both of whom passed away after the completion of this movie. Hayes portrays himself in a small role. The entire 100 minutes of sitting in the theater might be worth it to see Mac and Hayes, but certainly not for any other reason.