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November 7, 2008 |

By Dustin Rowles | Film | November 7, 2008 |

I liked Bernie Mac. And I’m not just saying that because the man is dead. He played the exact same character in everything he was ever in, but that character was usually the best part of whatever it was. I watched “The Bernie Mac Show” far more than the material warranted because there was a certain, amusing, socio-economic familiarity to Mac’s soft-hearted cantankerousness. Hey! I got spankings, too! But like Chris Rock, with whom he starred in Head of State, there just haven’t been any scripts to match the talent of Mac. Certain comics excel on the stage, but that brand of humor often doesn’t translate well onscreen, and the only thing that ever came close to it for Mac was the asides he made to the camera on his long-running television show.

There’s a double dose of bittersweetness in watching Soul Men because not only does it star Mac in what will be his second-to-last movie role (he’s also a voice in Madagascar 2, also opening this weekend, and later a member of the Old Dogs cast, a sequel to the atrocious Wild Hogs), but because it’s the last role for Isaac Hayes, too, who has an extended cameo in the movie. Unfortunately, the bittersweet ache of watching two men who died tragically early is exacerbated by the sadness in knowing that Soul Men will be among their final contributions. I never saw Canadian Bacon, Wagon’s East or Almost Heroes because I didn’t want my lasting memories of John Candy and Chris Farley to be associated with those movies, and for fans of Bernie Mac, I might suggest doing the same here. You’re better off re-watching The Original Kings of Comedy and ignoring the existence of Soul Men all together.

But I’m not one to speak ill of the dead, so I can’t write that Soul Men is a ********* comedy full of ********* ****** ***** ************ to ********** involved. It’s **********. Hell, it’s probably one of the ****** movies of the year. And it’s a ****** that the Weinstein Brothers didn’t have the class to ***** ** along with the remains of Bernie Mac instead of subjecting audiences to these ******* memories.

In Soul Men, Bernie Mac and Samuel Jackson play Floyd Henderson and Louis Hinds respectively, two Pip-like members of an successful R&B group, Marcus Hooks and the Real Deal. However, once Marcus Hooks (John Legend) decided to go solo, the Real Deal was left to fend for themselves up and until a crash-and-burn career and an acrimonious split in 1979. Floyd went on to become a successful car-wash salesman while Floyd did some bits in prison for armed robbery. In the present day, Marcus Hooks has died, his body is being transported to Radio City Music Hall for a massive televised tribute, and Floyd and Louis are asked to reunite for one final performance. Despite the fact that they still loathe one another, Louis — in an attempt to liven up his retirement years — coaxes Floyd to do the tribute. Floyd, naturally, doesn’t fly, so the two do what people in road-trip movie must do: They drive across country in a shiny car.

The movie travels the well-worn path exactly as you’d imagine a ******** movie would travel. There is lots of cursing, lots of ***** jokes about old women and Viagra and broken hips. It’s all very ********* and ********. It’s a lot like The Blues Brothers plus Planes, Trains, and Automobiles crossed with Grumpy Old Men except, you know, it’s *** **** *****. They bicker, they squabble over decades-long grudges, they have a run in with the cops, and they deliver ****** Motown puns. And if you’ve ever seen a road-trip movie, you know exactly how Soul Men ends. *****, it is ******* a fitting tribute to Marcus Hook or to Bernie Mac.

Granted, there are a few fleeting moments where both Bernie Mac and Samuel Jackson transcend the ****y material they’re given, probably because they toss away Robert Ramsey and Mathew Stone’s ******* script and just riff off one another. It’s then when the two look comfortable, at ease with one another, and genuinely funny. Bernie Mac is at his best when he can just unload bile and invective, and Sam Jackson — for all his talent — is still at the top of his game when he’s delivering profanities (save for Morgan Freeman, no one says motherfucker better than Jackson). There is enough of that in Soul Men to make it occasionally tolerable, but ***** ********** *** ******* **** *****!

I’ll also say this: It’s a good natured film. ******, but earnest as hell. And as ******* as the material is, it’s one of Bernie Mac’s better performances. And though it probably has a lot to do with the fact that Mac has passed on, the ending is strangely. powerfully touching. Indeed, the pall that follows you out of the theater is almost enough to make you forget about the ***** **** **** ******** that you just watched.

Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba. He lives withi his wife and son in Portland, Maine You can reach him via email, or leave a comment below.

Soul Men / Dustin Rowles

Film | November 7, 2008 |

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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