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May 2004

By Julian Roman

Soul Plane
Distributor: MGM/ UA
Director: Jessy Terrero
Producer: David Scott Rubin & Jesse Terrero
Screenwriter: Bo Zenga & Chuck Wilson
Composer: The Rza
Cast: Kevin Hart, Snoop Dogg, Method Man, Tom Arnold, K.D Aubert, D.L Hughley, Godfrey, Monique, Brian Hooks, Sofia Vegara, John Witherspoon, Missi Pyle, & Arielle


Is it funny? This is the question that I asked myself after seeing Soul Plane. The film makes no effort whatsoever to have any semblance of a plot or character development. Its raunchy humor based on ghetto and racial stereotypes. No problem, offend me. Insult everything, but make me laugh. That's the expectation that this film doesn't even come close to fulfilling. There are a few chuckles, but there needed to be some gutbusters for Soul Plane to succeed. Instead, at a brisk eighty-six minutes, Soul Plane quickly wears thin. A ride on a real plane would be more entertaining.

The film stars comedian Kevin Hart in his first leading role. He plays Nashawn Williams, an underachiever who wins a huge settlement after a mishap in an airline lavatory. He takes the money and starts his own airline, Nashawn Williams Airlines, or NWA. If you don't understand that reference then you have no business watching this film. NWA's goal is to be the first black owned airline that caters to the urban traveler. That's why the plane has chrome rims, bounces like a hoopty, and the third class passengers pass around a bucket of Popeye's Fried Chicken. Why not also pass around a big watermelon for everyone to take a bite out of? Wouldn't the cool taste of watermelon perfectly compliment the fried chicken? The first class passengers aren't lucky enough to get fried chicken. They're too busy hanging out in the VIP club with the transparent roof. Think rap video in the sky with half-naked flight attendants. The plot is a pale retread of the old airplane spoofs. The captain gets sick and predictably, Nashawn is left to fly the plane.

There's a host of oddball characters on NWA's maiden voyage. There's the white family (Tom Arnold and crew) heading back home after a vacation at Cracker Land. Captain Mack (Snoop Dogg), the simulator-trained, reefer smoking pilot. Muggsy (Method Man), Nashawn's bumbling cousin, and the wacky security screener (Monique), who high-fives after rubbing you down with her security wand. This is just a small sample of the ethnic, racial, and sexual make-up of the Soul Plane's passengers.

Stereotypes and the N-word are used flagrantly throughout the film. Jessie Terrero, the film's director and co-writer, shrugs of the racial issues because the film is a parody of urban culture. He likens the three classes of the plane to the environments he saw in cities. It's understandable and ripe for satire, but only works if the movie is funny. It's not. It reaches for base humor to cover the lack of cohesiveness. The film is incredible disjointed, like huge parts of the movie were taken out or rearranged. At a certain point it becomes obvious that the film is just thrown together around weak jokes.

Soul Plane doesn't require any thought. It's incredibly vapid in its lack of message. Once again, not an issue if the movie's funny. The fear is that people who aren't familiar with black urban culture will use this film to reinforce their stereotypes. There's not one smart or selfless character. Everyone is a caricature in an unfunny, unoriginal plot. Let's hope the sequel is better.