‘Soul Men’ is good-naturedly crude

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Friday, November 7, 2008 5:01am
  • LifeGo-See-Do

Most movie comedies now are either bland family-friendly things or raunchfests in which body parts are repeatedly named (and sometimes seen), thus guaranteeing a certain number of laughs (this has become the movie equivalent of dropping the f-word into stand-up comedy routines).

“Soul Men” is definitely not family-friendly, and the sex jokes are plentiful. But at least this rowdy comedy is about seasoned men, not adolescents.

The title characters are Henderson and Hinds, backup singers to a famous soul shouter who went on to have a great solo career while H&H slipped into obscurity. It’s hard out there for a Pip.

Henderson and Hinds are played by Bernie Mac — one of his final roles before his untimely death in August — and Samuel L. Jackson. The two men haven’t spoken to each other for years, but they’re brought together for a road trip to attend the funeral of their old lead singer.

Most of this is by rote, but Mac and Jackson are such vivid performers they make the trip consistently funny. The film’s attitude toward profanity and sex (both men get lucky on the road, in the tradition of touring musicians) is cheerfully broad.

Director Malcolm D. Lee, who made the hilarious “Undercover Brother,” encourages looseness in the actors, so don’t expect much subtlety. But when designated villain Affion Crockett gets nutty, or one-night stand Jennifer Coolidge goes on about sex acts, the results are shameless and usually amusing.

Like last week’s “Zack and Miri Make a Porno,” this movie’s raunchy surface eventually gives way to a gooey center, and there’s some stuff about a long-lost daughter that makes our two bickering heroes get on the same side for once.

This doesn’t hold up to any kind of serious scrutiny, but if you start looking for logic in this film, you’ll be out of sorts. Roll with it, or don’t.

Mac and Jackson do their own singing, and while they’re not too credible as soul crooners, at least they commit themselves. The chemistry is good: Mac riffs, and Jackson responds with righteous exasperation.

Isaac Hayes, who also died recently, has a cameo in the movie. The film has an unusually long tribute to Bernie Mac and Hayes during the end credits, which seems perfectly in tune with the movie’s mood of paying tribute. So stick around.

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