Doug Hyun
November 05, 2008 at 05:00 AM EST

Soul Men

Current Status
In Season
92 minutes
Wide Release Date
Samuel L. Jackson, Bernie Mac, Isaac Hayes, Sean Hayes
Malcolm D. Lee
Robert Ramsey, Matthew Stone
We gave it a C

Soul Men, starring Bernie Mac and Samuel L. Jackson as backup singers from the Motown/Stax era who reunite for a concert, is the last feature that Mac — that great, gruff growler (he’s the one comedian I can think of who had an imperious twinkle) — completed before his death. That alone made me eager to see it, and so did the subject matter — a look back at the glory days of soul — and also the director, Malcolm D. Lee, who brought a brashly funny and humane touch to The Best Man (1999) and to the I-love-the-’70s roller-boogie trip Roll Bounce (2005). But Soul Men, disappointingly, doesn’t have that same deft, light touch. It’s just another grumpy-old-men grousefest with a gooey center, like The Sunshine Boys or The Bucket List. Even its musical nostalgia comes off as more concocted than felt. Floyd (Mac), bored to tears in his comfy retirement, and Louis (Jackson), who lost all his money, haven’t spoken in years. When their former lead singer dies, they travel cross-country to a tribute gig, polishing their act in cheap lounges on their way to the Apollo Theater. There’s yelling, more yelling, a lot more yelling, and a plastic plot about the woman they both loved. There’s also a nice moment in the desert when they rediscover their elegant stage moves. But Soul Men could have done with less amped-up abrasiveness and more soft-shoe charm. C

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