Soul Plane

by Michael Fessenden
Tuesday Sep 7, 2004
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My first thought after sitting down to watch this comedy was that I should have had a cocktail before watching it. My second thought is that I should have had two. Soul Plane is a new comedy that will probably give you a snicker or two, but ultimately leave you wanting something else.

Kevin Hart stars as Nashawn Wade, a hapless young man who sues an airline after his dog is killed during a routine flight. He is awarded $100 million and Nashawn, always the entrepreneur, decides to open his own airline geared towards African Americans. Soon after, Nashawn Wade Airlines (or NWA…har har) opens and we join them for its inaugural flight. As usual, things don’t go as planned, and the protagonists are forced to land the plane themselves. Sound familiar? Well, get the idea out of your head that this is an African-American retelling of Airplane. There is an airplane involved, but the similarity pretty much ends there. First class looks like a nightclub, business class becomes a strip bar and coach (“Low Class”) takes its styling from a subway train.

The film’s only strong point is that it is unabashedly tasteless and juvenile. Unfortunately, it would have benefited from a director who knows something about comic timing; the movie is really just a mishmash of badly timed gags and scenes that seem out of order at times. The comic bits here and there are usually cut off too soon, or meander around until they’re no longer funny. About three quarters of the way in, we’re treated to a tacked-on romantic subplot involving Nashawn and his former girlfriend whose name you’ll probably forget for her fleeting screen time.

Both blacks and whites will probably be offended at Soul Plane’s overly stereotypical stereotypes. Luckily, this movie is an equal-opportunity offender; blacks, whites, Hispanics, Muslims, homosexuals and even the blind are all the targets of the rather middling caliber of humor presented here. It doesn’t have the intelligence of Barbershop or cleverness of Scary Movie and ultimately comes off as annoying. There are some laughs to be found here, but nothing that hasn’t been done before and done better.

The Unrated “Mile High” edition of Soul Plane includes five extra minutes not seen in theaters. I can say that beyond a doubt, the unrated version is just as painful to watch as the R-rated version is. The deleted scenes are fairly dull and probably deserving of their omission, but the outtakes are good for a couple of laughs. Some of the funnier parts of the movie involve comedian Mo’Nique as a loud airport security guard, and she brings a little life to the features with her antics in the outtakes.

The making-of feature has an interview with Jessy Terrero, a director who has cut his feature film teeth with Soul Plane, and who clearly has a long way to go before making another one. It’s pretty dull; the principle actors spend the first couple of minutes trying to see how many acronyms they can come up with for the initials “NWA.” Skip it. The most amusing part of the features is seeing several of the rather embarrassed actors discuss how they initially rejected the script or turned down the role outright…perhaps they should have stuck to that decision.


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