soul-men_web.jpgIt was Aug. 9, 2008.  My father had been admitted to the hospital because of a heart condition.  I was twiddling my thumbs, itching for an occupation so I wouldn’t go mad with worry.

My father, who is an avid CNN fan, had the TV permanently set to the channel.  I remember standing in his room with family, praying for his recovery, when I looked up at the screen.  It read: “Bernie Mac dies of pneumonia.”  I was in shock.
Imagine my grief the next day when the same channel broke the news that Isaac Hayes had passed away; a stroke.  It seems that, lately, my time has been spent in hospitals.  First, my father; now, my sister has been having ailments.  This past week, I was sitting in the emergency room with her, my mother, and little niece, as the announcement was read that Barack Obama had won the presidency. At that moment, I am saddened to say, I didn’t care.  I was too worried about my sister; we didn’t know what was wrong.  Once we did know, then I wanted to cry.

This article isn’t about President-elect Obama; although, it feels good to write that phrase. This article is about the latest movie made by three great talents: the late Mac, the late Hayes, and Samuel L. Jackson. 

Soul Men
is the story of two washed-up performers whose current lives are mediocre and sad after their heyday in the 1960s and ‘70s as back-up singers to Marcus Hooks (played by John Legend).

The men, Floyd Henderson (Mac) and Louis Hinds (Jackson), are invited to perform a few of their old songs for a tribute concert/funeral.  Their journey leads them across the country, performing in smaller venues to get their groove back, and mending their acidic friendship.  Along the way, they pick up a daughter (I won’t ruin the surprise by telling you whose daughter) and a groupie.  This is a classic road trip movie with great comedic talent, fresh jokes and catchy music.

I am a part of the Millennial Generation; which I’m sure you readers already knew.  So, the soul music of the film is ahead of my time.  But, I must say, when the “old” music was played, I found myself tapping my feet and nodding my head.  I almost never do that unless I’m in my car listening to a good song.  That says to me that
Stanley Clarke chose the best songs for the film and should be commended as the music editor.

Screenwriters Robert Ramsey and Matthew Stone wrote a great script, but it took the fast-talking talents of Mac to make the lines funny.  Every time Henderson speaks harshly to someone, Mac makes it more of a joke than an insult. Speaking of Mac (and Jackson), they managed to make a movie that is truly funny.  It’s been a long time since I have seen a movie that is truly funny.  A lot of comedies say they’re funny, but I don’t find myself laughing out loud, like I did in Soul Men.  That is to say, I was laughing so hard, I forgot I was in the theater and bothered the other patrons a little.  (I was blushing when the lights came on).

Director Malcolm D. Lee should also be commended for making such a fine movie, which ends up being a tribute to the stars who have gone on, and Jackson; I’m glad he’s still alive.  Just by watching the film, I could tell Lee was at ease with his actors.  That’s always a good thing. 

As I have already stated, Mac brought his own brand of comedy to the film and did things that only he could do.  Jackson, whose character is quite intellectual despite his appearance, is quite funny, too.  He’s also the grounded character who keeps the plot moving in a logical way.  Some comedies tend to go too far and veer off into a circus.

Hayes, who really was making a cameo as himself, is reserved.  Some of his fire seemed to have dissipated.  For the first time, Hayes seemed to be his age.  Not to say that he looks sad in Soul Men, he just looks more like a legend than the Black Moses many people have come to love and adore.

Other actors of note are Sean Hayes as the record label mogul trying to help Henderson and Hinds with their comeback.  Hayes of Will & Grace fame is no Jack in this one; he’s subdued. 

Sharon Leal, who plays Cleo, the daughter, sings quite well.  I didn’t know she could sing.  She’s also playing against type as a shy waitress who has her mother’s sharp tongue.  She also serves as a feminine presence to keep the audience from going into Man’s Land and getting lost. 

John Legend should be commended for his role, or should I say his voice.  The audience never actually sees Legend in the flesh, but his voice is too good not to notice.

Speaking of voices, Mac, Jackson, and Leal all did their own voice work.  Of the three, Leal sounds the best, but the others make up for that in the acting department. 

I enjoyed Soul Men and I’m sure you readers will enjoy it, too. Just make sure you stay for the ending credits, which is a tribute to Mac and Hayes.  You’ll be sorry if you miss them; the movie and the ending credits.