By Clint Morris
When someone in a funky suit guts a pumpkin on Halloween youâ€™re generally left with a rather hollow shell with only a trickle of tasty stuff still left inside.
In this case, the dude in the funky suit would be The Weinstein Company, and the trickle of tasty stuff theyâ€™ve left inside the rather bare cadaver of â€œSoul Menâ€ can merely be attributed to its entertaining leads.
Ladies and gents, not much here to see at all – - which is sad, considering itâ€™s the last major film for both Bernie Mac and Isaac Hayes.
Mac and Samuel L.Jackson play, well, the African American equivalents of Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmonâ€™s â€œGrumpy Old Menâ€ â€“ only these two can hold a tune.
Ya see, theyâ€™re former members of a Motown-style group that are forced to reunite for a one-off reunion show to salute itâ€™s fallen member (who they werenâ€™t too fond of, considering he quit the band to become a solo artist of the height of their fame). Cue the clichÃ©d stop-offâ€™s (to meet estranged daughters), recurring villains (a wannabe musician who wants revenge on the boys for breaking some of his bones), and the always-necessary trip to prison.
â€œSoul Menâ€ is fun enough, and the boys bounce well off each other, but thereâ€™s just nothing in this thinly-written road-trip comedy. The set-up is quite good, and you suspect thereâ€™s going to be some fun times ahead, but they just never come â€“ it just plods along to the finish line.
I still remember Jackson telling me at the Snakes on a Plane junket at Comic Con a few years back that he chose to do that film based solely on the title (â€œwhen I read that title, I knew I wanted to do it! â€œSnake on a Plane!? â€“ thatâ€™s all I needed!â€), not the script. After seeing some of the crap heâ€™s been in lately, I believe it. The man obviously doesnâ€™t pick his projects based on how solid their storyline is, or who else is involved, but instead whether theyâ€™ve got an interesting title (and, assumingly, whether or not they pay well) or mock teaser-poster.
â€œSoul Menâ€ mightnâ€™t be the flashiest of titles (in fact, one might mistake it for the long-awaited sequel to the C.Thomas Howell comedy of the late 80s) but it does have a reasonably intriguing premise – - maybe thatâ€™s what snagged Samâ€™s interest this time â€˜round? Or maybe he simply assumed, from the title, that itâ€™d be his big chance to sing? Whatever the case, the man needs someone to get his career back on track â€“ heâ€™s picking duds like a tight-ass hubby at a thrift storeâ€¦. Sloppily, rushed, and with the bottom-dollar firmly in mind the whole time.
A so-so commentary, a tribute to both Hayes & Mac, several behind-the-scenes featurettes, and Bernie Mac- doing what he does best – at The Apollo.