"Soul Men" tells the story of a successful musical trio and the separate directions their lives took after one of them left for solo stardom. During a ten-year run in the sixties and seventies, Marcus Hooks and the Real Deal scored a number of hits on the charts. That run ended, however, when Marcus (John Legend) abruptly left the partnership and continued to have hits on his own. The Real Deal did continue for awhile, and even had a hit on their own. However, they were unable to sustain that success, and Real Deal singers Floyd Henderson (Bernie Mac) and Louis Hinds (Samuel L. Jackson) went their separate ways. Floyd started a chain of successful car washes in California, which he handed over to his nephew, Duane (Mike Epps), when he decided to retire. He was, however, a restless retiree. Louis, on the other hand, ran afoul of the law, spent time in prison. He works a low-paying, thankless job as an auto mechanic in Los Angeles, where his employer waits for him to make any mistake.
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Louis is eventually goaded into that mistake when he gets a phone call at work from Floyd. Floyd has been contacted by Danny Epstein (Sean Hayes), the son of their former manager, with some bad news. Marcus has died while touring in Sweden, and his body is being returned to the States. A memorial service is planned for Marcus at the Apollo Theater in New York, and Danny and Floyd want to reunite the Real Deal for the gig. Louis, however, wants no part of it when first called by Floyd. When Louis's boss complains about the call with choice language, Louis punches out his employer. Other staff chase Louis from the garage. An undaunted Floyd pays a visit to Louis's rundown apartment, where Louis once again insists that his life is fine, and he has no interest in ever again singing with Floyd. When Floyd mentions they'll get paid, and that he's going back to his nice hotel room, Louis joins Floyd on a cross-country journey by car, playing one-night gigs on the way to the memorial.
When they reach Tulsa, Floyd decides to pay a visit to a woman they once knew. Neither realize, though, their old friend has died, but her daughter, Cleo Whitfield (Sharon Leal), still lives there. She works as a waitress, and lives with her boyfriend, Lester (Affion Crockett). Lester and his friends, though, are a trio of knuckleheads who want to be rap stars, but are now low-level drug pushers to make ends meet. When Lester and his boys get stupid with Louis, Louis makes them wish they hadn't. They take exception to Louis's actions, which leaves Louis, Floyd, and Cleo fleeing for Memphis, where the group got its start. There, they discover Cleo has inherited her mother's singing voice, and invite her to become a part of their concert, which is promoted and attended by Isaac Hayes (as himself). Meanwhile, Danny has assigned an assistant, Phillip Newman (Adam Herschman), to ensure that the Real Deal arrive safely in New York. He arrives in Memphis to find the duo in all sorts of trouble. Still, he does what he can to succeed in his first important assignment.
"Soul Men" is a film that knows classic music, and has an adult sense of humor that delivers laughs from start to finish. Floyd and Louis may be getting on in years, but neither wants to go down the "On Golden Pond" route to the end. Arguments tore apart the Real Deal, but most of their history that matters is about their music. Personal issues do arise, such as which of them is the father of Cleo. The arguments between Floyd and Louis get particularly biting, especially in the differences in lifestyle they have had. These disputes are no-holds-barred, loud, and hilarious. Eventually, they prove how much they care about one another. Mac and Jackson do some of their own singing, but their chemistry off the stage is outstanding. If they have something to say to each other, they are going to say it with authority (and largely unspoken affection). Director Malcolm D. Lee (cousin of Spike) offers amusing visuals in addition to the comedy. I particlarly enjoyed the car wash ads from Floyd's business, and the bands that backed the Real Deal that look like they should be playing barn dances and Oktoberfests. The best visual, though, is the Real Deal's entrance at the Apollo show. The film ends with outtake and interview footage of Mac and the music of Isaac Hayes. It's a fitting tribute to these men, who died before the film's release.
The script comes from the team of Robert Ramsey and Matthew Stone, whose previous screenplays include "Life" and "Intolerable Cruelty." It is clearly knowledgable about the popular soul music of the era. People in the know about the era will recognize that the Real Deal's movie songs were real hits for others, including "I'm Your Puppet" (James & Bobby Purify) and "Do Your Thing," which was a minor hit for Isaac Hayes. Ramsey and Stone even tease viewers with moments that threaten to turn the film in a serious direction. One of them happens when Floyd discovers a bottle of pills that belongs to Louis, and assumes it's cancer medication. While wincing in pain, Louis tells Floyd it's kidney stone medicine. The film may be geared toward people who appreciate the music and happenings of the 1970s, just like the 2008 release "Semi-Pro," but I laughed just as much at "Semi-Pro" as I did at this picture. The movie captured the time and the memories well.
"Soul Men" is a raucous and often crude look at two aging musicians who reunite to pay tribute to an old partner being laid to rest. The Real Deal paid dues to rise to stardom in music, then paid different dues after their frontman launched a successful solo career. Floyd Henderson and Louis Hinds may have gone their separate ways when the hits stopped coming, but nothing was ever as rewarding for them as making music. Philosophical differences may have had a hand in the end of the Real Deal, but those differences stopped mattering so much when their old groupmate played his last gig. New hits may not await, but old fans - as well as a few new ones - do.
This is an entry in the Good Movies 2 Write-Off hosted by captaind. Rules and more entries are found here: http://www.epinions.com/content_5245804676
Movie Mood: Funny Movie
Viewing Method: Other
Film Completeness: Looked complete to me.
Worst Part of this Film: Nothing