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Is SOUL MEN A Worthy Farewell To Bernie Mac And Isaac Hayes?

Beaks here... SOUL MEN was originally intended to be a poignant buddy comedy built around the bygone '60s/'70s era of real rhythm and blues. Now, it's a heartbreaking ode to the gone-too-soon talent of Bernie Mac and Isaac Hayes, both of whom passed away this summer (within a day of each other). I'll be checking out the film in a week or so, and I'm crossing my fingers that it'll be a fitting, affectionate sendoff. The key to the flim's success seems to be director Malcolm D. Lee (Spike's cousin), who has yet to craft a wholly successful comedy (though UNDERCOVER BROTHER does have its moments). Let's see what Dax had to say...
Hey Harry. I'm a longtime reader, first time reviewer, and I just moved to the NY area where I recently was able to catch an advanced and unfinished version of "Soul Men" starring the late Bernie Mac, the late Isaac Hayes, and the great Samuel L. Jackson. As a film school graduate I relished the first time that I could actually utilize my critical skills in 5 years! Unfortunately for me the movie was an above average buddy/road comedy with some well earned (and not cheap) pathos - and didn't warrant much critical evaluation. The plot involves two estranged soul singers who, when the third of their trio dies, come together for one last show. It's a very standard road movie set up. Floyd (Bernie Mac) can't stand being retired, and Louis (Sam Jackson) doesn't want to be found. However, they must get from L.A. to NY in a week to play at the Apollo theatre all the while dealing with their past and coming to terms with who they've become. I haven't seen much of anything else Malcom D. Lee has directed recently (just faint memories of Undercover Brother) but here his direction is very assured. He manages to both keep a visual structure to the movie and musical numbers that is very cinematic while also letting the actors breathe and really own their characters; similar to how David Gordon Greene approached "Pineapple Express." And he's also got some very good talent. Bernie Mac and Samuel L. Jackson are mythic at this point in their careers. A consummate trash talker and a consummate bad ass. I saw through these characters actors coming to terms with the twilight of their careers. Make no mistake, they are perfectly cast and perfectly played and I wish we lived in an alternate universe where this could be made a T.V. series. I would pay to watch these two actors berate each other, learn from each other, and support each other in twenty more movies. In a way, they are like Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau here. And in the same breath I wish they could have remade (or re-imagined) Grumpy Old Men. The other actors fulfill their roles well and orbit the great supernova of Mac and Jackson with Affion Crockett being given the most thankless role of the shoe-horned but necessary antagonist. The script is standard crowd pleasing road movie fare, complete with a singing climax, but the script makes some good choices of how to do what's been done many times before and with the Mackson as our guides, the journey is a real pleasure. The music is evocative of the era it represents, but it won't be selling soundtracks to non-soul fans. It's catchy enough to not distract from the rest of the story. They said the cut was unfinished, but except for some technical issues (compositing during driving scenes, some watermarked stock footage during the establishing shots of New York) the pacing flowed smoothly. They really don't need to change much. The comedy is fantastic across the movie. I'm a 24 year old white male and I don't tend to enjoy the humor in mostly african american productions, such as "Soul Plane, Barbershop. etc" but this movie was flat out hilarious in some places. I watched it in a crowded theatre with 70% african americans and they loved every minute of it. I think this movie has some great crossover potential into white audiences. It's also very dirty, with constant swearing, some shocking nudity, and a bit of violence. Just the way I like it. I hope they keep all of it in for the final release. One little thing I didn't like was there was a memoriam for Bernie Mac and Isaac Hayes that played over the end credits. While I like the idea of behind the scenes footage during credits, it felt overdone. A simple "In Memory of" would have sufficed until the DVD release. All in all I'd say very good and I'd recommend it if you like what you've read. It's not a masterpiece, but it's a fitting end to Bernie Mac's film career and it fits in more snug than a Jedi for Samuel L. Jackson. As for Malcom D. Lee, I'll be watching for what he does next. If you use this, call me Dax.
SOUL MEN opens nationwide on November 14th.

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