Soul Men
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Soul Men

DVD

Blu-ray

Some very fortunate people have managed to make friends that will literally last a lifetime. Perhaps it is someone from the old neighborhood where you both grew up and you somehow kept in touch for all the intervening years. On occasion there is a break in the friendship that drives the pair apart. Frequently it is over something very silly but at the time it seems like the most major event possible. Hopefully there will be reconciliation down the road to restore that friendship to its former lauded place in your life. This has driven a number of films that have ranged from the poignant to the ridiculous. One recent movie has revisited the concept with a story that is funny and at the same time provides a few touching moments. The film is ‘Soul Men’ about two singing partners that have long ago parted ways after a dispute over a woman. Some years later circumstances seem to conspire to force the two men together. It may seem like a hackney plot and little new material could be dragged from it but if you are of that opinion it will change within a few minutes into the movie. What pulls this film up from the depths of mediocrity is the amazing cast; some you may associate with comedy, others might surprise you in their performance in a humorous flick. You might say that a movie like this could be described as variation of a buddy flick or perhaps an anti-buddy movie. As with all forms of flick, especially comedies, there is a set of rules and regulations that the film maker must follow. For example the characters must be caught between two diametrically opposite forces; love and hate. They are best friends who haven’t spoken in many years because of spat decades ago. This is counterbalanced by a need to return to what brought them together in the first place, in this case soul music. Thrown in a few practical concerns and you have the basis for a standard flick. This movie is able to distinguish itself from the pack through the addition of some little twists and variations that give it a novel slant. Now this is not to say that this is a great movie but it is a whole lot better than the rash of comedies lately that have little in the way of plot or character development. At least this one makes an honest try at being entertaining and over all it works out. The film is now available on both DVD and Blu-ray distributed by the Weinstein Company and Genius Products. While there is nothing great here it is a fun watch and worth having.

Coming up with the screenplay for this flick was Robert Ramsey and Matthew Stone. Ramsey has made a career out of quirky comedies that tend to position unlikely combination of characters. With ‘Man of the House’ it was a federal marshal and cheerleaders. In his flick ‘Intolerable Cruelty’ he set a handsome divorce attorney against a conniving divorcee. In most of his films Ramsey seems to enjoy playing with the notion that opposites attract and pushes it to the limit. Stone was the co-author of these movies with Ramsey which makes this a comedy writing team with a track record of moderate successes. They are able to weave a story that by all rights should be overly familiar to the audience yet the way this team builds the characters it comes across as fresh. It’s just the way that the two main characters are constructed that is fun to watch. A lot of this has to do with the considerable talents of the leads, Samuel L. Jackson and the late, great Bernie Mac. The choice of having the setting two former blues singers is inspired. It brings a little feel of a VH1 ‘Behind the Music’ into the mix adding to the enjoyment factor by a considerable amount. The story has a tendency to ramble a touch but this somehow seems to be okay in this case. This is how long term relationships tend to go. They ebb and flow over time and are rarely ever firmly on track. If this script was more straightforward it would have appeared overly contrived. This gives it a natural feel and helps the audience emotionally bond with the characters. This is vital in a relationship comedy. If the viewers cannot relate to the characters the humor is lost.

The film was directed by Malcolm D. Lee and over the last couple of years I have had the pleasure to watch a few of his films. They always struck me as a bit off the wall but fun to watch and when you want to unwind with a comedy that is of paramount importance. He does it again here. Lee coaxes the best possible performances from his cast with hysterical results. Many may not consider Jackson when you think of comedy but the man is a consummate actor capable of bringing life to any role he takes on. In this film he is excellent with a comic timing that is impeccable. It also doesn’t hurt that he is opposite one of the truly great comedians of his generation; Bernie Mac. Sadly this the next to last time we will have one of his films to cheer us up. Mr. Mac died shortly after the film was released but there is one more movie in the can that will add to his considerable legacy. It is also the last film of musical genius Isaac Hayes who appeared here as himself. Mac made a name for himself as one of the Kings of Comedy and had some material that was less than family friendly. Like several other comedians of this type he made a course change in his career and went into family friendly faire to the delight of audiences all over the world. In the scenes he shares with Jackson there is magic in the air. The two have the tough attitude and style to pull off the humor.

Twenty years before the real start of the film three rhythm and blues singers were working their way towards to the top. The group consisted of Louis Jackson (Samuel L. Jackson), Floyd Henderson (Bernie Mac) and Marcus Hooks (John Legend). Marcus left the group to become a super star while Louis and Floyd went on the road to nowhere. The ultimate cause of the breakup was a dispute over a lovely young lady resulting in a bitter animosity between the former best friends. When Marcus dies there are plans for an elaborate memorial concert at the world famous Apollo Theater in New York City. The promoters of the event want to have a reunion concert and reunite Louis and Floyd. Louis is more inclined to honor their deceased from but Floyd is reluctant but is in dire need of funds. So the true set off in Floyd’s vintage El Dorado for a cross country trek to play at the gig. At this point the movie becomes a on the road flick with the usual conflict along the way.

This is a fun flick that will give you a great evening of entertainment. It also is chock full of extras to keep you busy long after the film has ended. This is one to have a good time with. While there is a choice between DVD and Blu-ray if you have a high definition system thereis only one way to go. Most people think that Blu-ray is best for fast action flicks with special effects in almost every shot. The plain fact of it is this format is great for any film. In a film like this the 1080p video is as if you are watching the film being played out live in front of you. The colors are brilliant and the contrast could not be any better. The Dolby True HD audio is so well balanced that you would be hard pressed to find an faults at all. The channel separation is far better than anything I have heard on regular 5.1 audio. he lossless audio format certainly makes a big difference.

Special Features:

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Commentary Malcolm Lee, Matt Stone and Rob Ramsey

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A look at Samuel L. Jackson and Bernie Mac

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The Cast of Soul Men

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Director Malcolm Lee

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Tribute to Bernie Mac

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Tribute to Isaac Hayes

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Behind the Scenes

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Bernie Mac at the Apollo

Posted 02/06/09

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