Samuel L. Jackson and Bernie Mac could star in anything together, letting their charm carry the entire film. Soul Men was built with these two actors in mind, and there’s no question they’re the reason this road trip movie is a success.
Soul Men isn’t the type of comedy that is willing to take chances. Co-writers Robert Ramsey and Matt Stone (Life) are on cruise control. Jackson and Mac play band mates who broke up in the ‘70s due to a feud, but are brought together when their lead singer dies. They’re forced to drive to New York to play at the Apollo, their first time together in 30 years.
Of course, they hate each other. Turns out Mac slept with Jackson’s wife, who them became Mac’s wife, and it gets more complex from there, giving the script an easy means of bringing everyone together for a happy ending. Nothing about Soul Men is unique. Every joke or visual gag is predictable, their troubles have been pulled from other films, and the story arc is instantly familiar.
Soul Men is sold on the charisma of its leads. Jackson as Louis Hinds and Mac as Floyd Henderson are perfect together on-screen. Their foul-mouthed antics are surely R-rated, but they’re still likeable and you get behind them in their quest to reunite. Their reactions, mannerisms, and facial expressions sell every scene even if the dialogue isn’t funny.
The film does rely on some juvenile humor, including rectal exams and false teeth. It quickly rebounds with more laughs, generated by the perfect comedic timing of its stars. A few appallingly terrible green screen shots are forgivable, although distracting.
Soul Men ends with a tribute to both Bernie Mac and Isaac Hayes, both of whom died not long after completion. It’s not a cheap way to ensure the audience leaves on a positive note. It’s a fine cap to help everyone realize how enormously talented Mac was, and Soul Men is a fine way to appreciate his excellent sense of comedy.
This is an outstanding AVC encode, presenting itself as all modern films should. Sharpness is consistent and strong throughout. Black levels are deep, and shadow delineation is excellent. Detail is stunning, with every close up revealing the finest of details, and long shots remaining firm.
Color is wonderfully saturated without bleeding. Contrast never blooms or heats up. There are no moments of artificial enhancement, and film grain is left on the transfer.
A fine uncompressed TrueHD mix is notable for its crystal clear music and lively crowd scenes. Cheers come from all directions, while the music bleeds nicely into the rears. Bass is likewise provided by the tunes. Some minor ambiance is notable elsewhere, including Jackson’s rundown apartment in which a baby is heard crying in the rears as he walks through a hallway. It’s not ground breaking, and yet does provide a stable, immersive experience.
Extras are mostly fluff. Director Malcolm Lee talks about the film with the co-writers Matt Stone and Rob Ramsey in a commentary track. The Soul Men is a short making of padded with film footage. The Cast of Soul Men is self-explanatory during its run of eight minutes. Director Malcolm Hayes is a brief look at the director.
Individual tributes to Bernie Mac and Isaac Hayes mostly relate to Soul Men and little else. Boogie Ain’t Nuttin’ is behind-the-scenes footage of a song recording (yes, Mac and Jackson did their own voice work). The film’s trailer is also included.