1 star (out of 4)
Desperate times call for desperate measures, so until further notice any movie that depicts flatulence, a gastrointestinal mishap or harm to an animal in the first five minutes gets one star.
"Soul Plane" offers all three--the first two leaving lead actor Kevin Hart stuck to an airplane potty, the third hurling his pet dog into a jet engine.
The movie doesn't get any funnier, and, thanks to its knuckleheaded racial portrayals, it gets even harder to take.
"Soul Plane" is a prime example of a comedy that's all marketing. Someone figured out they could sell something called "Soul Plane" that looks like an airborne retro dance party.
Cast Snoop Dogg as the ever-stoned pilot, throw in plenty of sight gags that conform to black stereotypes--the plane has chrome wheels, Colt 45 signs decorate the interior, the overhead compartments require a 25-cent deposit, etc.--and you've got an ad campaign to lure the unsuspecting to the multiplex.
Actually transforming the concept into entertainment would have required extra effort: little things like writing jokes, creating characters, casting competent comedic actors, spending more than 2 cents on the production design and directing the whole shebang with more finesse than a demolition derby flag-waver.
Regardless of the cast being listed alphabetically, it's a bad sign when Tom Arnold is the top-billed actor and he's no worse than anyone else.
The set-up is that Hart's Nashawn Wade, a never-done-nuthin' kind of guy, wins $100 million in his lawsuit against the incompetent white airline and its snooty white lawyers for the dog snafu, and he uses the money to create his own African-American-friendly airline, NWA (for Nashawn Wade Airlines, though rap fans should recognize another reference).
Most of the movie takes place on the inaugural flight, on which almost everything goes wrong while Nashawn panics in broadly unfunny ways.
I'm not sure whether "Soul Plane" is more offensive to whites or blacks. Aside from the uptight dimwits on that opening flight (they swoon when the in-flight movie is announced as "Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood"--this movie can't even get the title right), the whites are represented by, yes, the Hunkee family.
That would be Arnold's nerdish Elvis Hunkee, his hungry-for-dark-meat fiance Barbara (Missi Pyle), his sex-obsessed teen daughter Heather (Arielle Kebbel) and his jive-talkin' young son Billy (Ryan Pinkston). They'd have been cliches in Archie Bunker's day.
But really the portrayal of blacks as foul-mouthed, drugged-out, leering, groping, irresponsible party-hardy types is even more cynical.
For good measure "Soul Plane" also includes a constant stream of homophobic jokes and one gag in which the punch line is simply: A bearded guy in a turban has boarded the plane!
Where's Dave Chappelle when you need him?
Let's make this simple: If you spend money on "Soul Plane," you've been played.
Directed by Jessy Terrero; written by Bo Zenga and Chuck Wilson; photographed by Jonathan Sela; edited by Michael R. Miller; production designed by Robb Buono; music by The RZA; produced by David Scott Rubin, Terrero. A Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures release; opens Friday, May 28. Running time: 1:26. MPAA rating: R (strong sexual content, language, some drug use).
Mr. Hunkee - Tom Arnold
Nashawn - Kevin Hart
Muggsy - Method Man
Captain Mack - Snoop Dogg
Giselle - K.D. Aubert
Gaeman - Godfrey