Samuel L. Jackson and Bernie Mac star in this entertaining little comedy about two once-famous soul backing singers who also scored one hit as a duo before personal problems saw them have a huge falling out. When the much-loved lead singer of their most successful band dies the two men are offered a chance to sing at a concert in memory of their former leading man. To get to the concert they just have to survive a number of little diversions, get a few practice gigs in and try not to kill each other.
Soul Men is an enjoyable little movie, coasting along on the chemistry between the late, great Bernie Mac and the charismatic Mr. Jackson. Many scenes may feature nothing more than the two men swearing at each other (don’t watch this film if you’re easily offended by profanity) but they almost elevate the cursewords to a comedy artform. The initial meeting of the two, with Samuel L. Jackson trying to convince Bernie Mac that he’d better not come back or the dog will attack him, has some lines of dialogue that will make you laugh out loud and the movie never drops far from that level.
The two leads are fantastic but the supporting cast, including the lovely Sharon Leal, Adam Herschman, Sean Hayes, the late (and also great) Isaac Hayes and Jennifer Coolidge, also does a uniformly great job and the movie maintains a great mix of comedy and quality throughout even if it doesn’t quite manage to be anything truly great.
Malcolm D. Lee directs without any flourish (though the opening sequence providing a brief summary of the fictional musical career of our leads is very well put together) and simply keeps our main men in focus while they bicker and fight with each other. The script, by Robert Ramsey and Matthew Stone, hits the plot points it needs to amidst the seemingly freewheeling rants (many moments feel enjoyably loose and improvised).
The road trip to the big gig, and the practice shows en route, give the movie a flavour of The Blues Brothers that it can’t avoid and, sadly, when thinking of that movie you are forced to consider how this one doesn’t measure up. Each story strand is well woven throughout the film but the whole thing doesn’t satisfy as it should and without the goodwill that the two leading men garner this would easily have been consigned to the bargain bins after only a week or two. But that didn’t happen and we’re left with a pleasant comedy that has a few very funny moments, nothing more and nothing less, though anyone who considers themselves a BIG fan of both men should add a couple of points to my rating.
Soul Men is available to buy on DVD from 17/1/11.
DIRECTOR: MALCOLM D. LEE
CAST: BERNIE MAC, SAMUEL L. JACKSON, SHARON LEAL, ADAM HERSCHMAN, SEAN HAYES
RUNTIME: 100 MINS APPROX