Soul Men (2008)
Soul Men (2008)

Genre: Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 40 min.

Release Date: November 7th, 2008 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Malcolm D. Lee Actors: Samuel L. Jackson, Bernie Mac, Sharon Leal, Adam Herschman, Sean Hayes, Affion Crockett, Fatso Fasano, Mike Epps, John Legend, Isaac Hayes, Jennifer Coolidge




ot a hint of originality can be found in this lifeless tribute to music and old school mayhem. “Soul Men” features decent chemistry between funny-man Bernie Mac and straight-man Samuel L. Jackson, but they’re both characters seen again and again on film, played specifically according to formula by these same two actors. As a comedy, the laughs are practically nonexistent and, as an ode to true soul men, the film flounders in predictability and a disappointing over-dependency on staying between the lines of decency and expectations (despite familiar foul-mouthed soliloquies by both leads).

In the early ‘70s, soul group Marcus Hooks and the Real Deal become extremely popular and sell over six million records. But by 1977, Hooks (John Legend) recognizes his superior talents and decides to go solo – leaving his partners Floyd Henderson (Bernie Mac) and Louis Hinds (Samuel L. Jackson) to struggle with the loss of stardom well into their old age. In present day, Floyd is retired and regularly discouraged by his mundane existence.

When Marcus Hooks dies, Floyd is approached by VH1 to reunite with Louis to do a tribute song at Hooks’ exuberant Apollo Theater funeral. Bitter and cranky, especially at the memory of Floyd’s affair with his wife, Louis is eventually convinced to journey cross-country with Henderson for the promise of money attached to their big performance. During the road trip, the duo has the opportunity to brush up on their singing (having been absent from the spotlight for 30 years), confront unexpected reunions with the past, and initiate run-ins with the law – but nothing will stop their quest to get back into the spotlight.

Heading straight for the lewd, gross-out laughter, the first 10 minutes of the movie surrounds audiences in awkward sexual escapades and a galling rectal examination. Shortly thereafter, the jokes become more repetitive, doubling up on the mishandling-of-firearms routine, animalistic bedroom hanky-panky (including the theatrical trailer’s notorious “velveteen rub”), and bad language galore. The humor itself is not geared toward a particular demographic, despite the clear target audience for the ensemble cast, so it is most disappointing to find such timeworn comedy gimmicks continually bombarding the screen. Stereotyped characters, conventional (and unnecessary) supporting roles, and recycled life lessons also surface, only to add to the stunning unoriginality of the project.

It’s part road movie and mainly a buddy film, but what really strikes a chord on the string of ineffectiveness is the inexcusable redundancy and lack of zest. The characters are vinegary even when they’re trying to have fun, while the farcical situations of the generally watchable lead duo are all stolen from other comedies – similarly fashioned around the importance of friends, as if misadventures are the only route to understanding values. Samuel L. Jackson and Bernie Mac are enjoyable actors, but the material in “Soul Men” is as generic as it gets.

– Mike Massie

  • 2/10