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Review by Dustin Putman
1 star out of 4
The second distaff remake in two months with a predominantly black
cast, "Soul Plane"—loosely based on 1980's classic "Airplane!"—is
not quite as physically painful as "Johnson Family Vacation"—loosely
based on 1983's classic "National Lampoon's Vacation"—but these two
updates are still far too close in quality for comfort. Directed without
flair or style by Jessy Terrero, the number of laughs "Soul Plane"
accumulates during its 86-minute running time could be counted on
one hand (maybe two). The rest is simply languorous, clunky, and out-and-out unoriginal.
When Nashawn (Kevin Hart) experiences a terrible airplane mishap that
leaves his backside seriously injured and his dog dead, he promptly
sues the company and collects $100-million. With his newfound wealth,
he creates NWA, his own airline targeted toward African American passengers
and complete with first-class and "low-class" seating and a hip-hop
club on the second floor. The maiden voyage from L.A. to New York
fails to go off without a hitch. Th e pot-smoking pilot, Captain Mack
(Snoop Dogg), has never flown a plane before and is afraid of heights.
Due to a canceled flight, Mr. Hunkee (Tom Arnold) and his family find
themselves the only white people on the plane. And Nashawn unexpectedly
comes face to face with his beloved ex-girlfriend, Giselle (K.D. Aubert),
who is a passenger on the flight.
Remaking great films that weren't exactly in need of improvements
or revisitation always runs the risk of having shameful results, and
"Soul Plane" is no exception. Whereas "Airplane!" held an endless
stream of one outrageous slapstick gag after the next, "Soul Plane"
screenwriters Bo Zenga and Chuck Wilson are not nearly as capable
or ambitious in their humor. The film either reaches for the most
tasteless or potentially offensive stereotypical humor it can find,
or just gives up altogether and actually tries to treat the storylines
seriously. These aims of sincerity, such as the romantic rekindling
of Nashawn and Giselle , fall flat as a pancake and have none of the
zing that Robert Hays and Julie Hagerty had in "Airplane!"
The comedy is, for the most part, not much better. Jessy Terrero's
direction is strictly amateur-night, as he doesn't seem to have the
first idea how to successfully set up a joke and pay it off with such
things as tight editing, assured performances, and solid writing.
Save for a few gags that do work—the "Caucasian adapter" toilet seat
Tom Arnold uses; the loud, tell-it-like-it-is antics of the airport
security guard (a scene-stealing Mo'Nique); the excitement the white
passengers elicit when they find out the in-flight movie is going
to be "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood"—most of the comedy
aims for cheap obviousness over genuine cleverness. Meanwhile, the
slapdash ensemble of characters move in and out of scenes with no
detectable rhythm, some of them disappearing for inordinately long
s tretches and others never even showing up again to wrap up their
respective subplot. Sexual jokes involving loaded baked potatoes and
erotic asphyxiation are especially embarrassing.
Even viewed as nothing more than an intentionally stupid spoof (which
is what it is), "Soul Plane" is wafer-thin and instantly forgettable.
Its innate meanness in stereotyping all races, ethnicities, and sexualities
imaginable is lessened, at least, because nothing should be taken
too seriously to begin with. This fact, however, does not take away
from how piddling and dreary the experience of watching it is. If
"Soul Plane" succeeds at anything, it will likely inspire viewers
to immediately rewatch "Airplane!" to wash out the bad taste this
new movie pollutes into their mouths.
Copyright © 2004 Dustin Putman