Film Review: Soul Men

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An inevitably elegiac air permeates "Soul Men," the new comedy that marks not only one of the last screen appearances by the late Bernie Mac but also features a brief appearance by recently departed music legend Isaac Hayes. This contemporary riff on "The Sunshine Boys" generally manages to succeed anyway, thanks to the entertaining performances by Mac and co-star Samuel L. Jackson and its generous doses of raucous humor and sweet soul music.

Mac and Jackson play Floyd and Louis, who began their careers as backup singers for R&B legend Marcus Hooks (John Legend) -- think Gladys Knight's Pips -- before striking out on their own as a duo dubbed the Real Deal. Their partnership having ended years earlier thanks to professional failures and personal squabbles, they find themselves reluctantly reuniting after the death of their former leader when they are asked to perform in a tribute concert at the Apollo Theater.

Since taking a flight from L.A. to New York would result in a movie with too short a running time, the two embark on a road trip across the country in a lime green 1971 Cadillac (inspired by Isaac Hayes' car, now housed in a Memphis museum), brushing up on their act along the way and getting into a series of comic misadventures.

Robert Ramsey and Matthew Stone's script takes full advantage of its co-stars' particular talents for making profane language soar, and the raunchy dialogue and situations deliver a steady stream of dependable if decidedly lowbrow laughs. The funniest episode involves Floyd's hookup with a buxom fan (the ever-reliable Jennifer Coolidge) who shows this old dog some new tricks.

There's an attempt to inject some emotion into the proceedings with the character of a young woman (Sharon Leal) who turns out to be the daughter of one of the two men, but the sentimentality generally takes a back seat to the silliness.

While not exactly the Temptations, the two stars manage to deliver a series of soul classics (and one original number written by Cee-lo) in energetic fashion, and the choreography and costumes well conjure up several decades of popular R&B music.

Moving tribute is paid to Mac in the end credits, which feature both the inevitable amusing outtakes and snippets from an interview in which he talks about his commitment to his audience.
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