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Soul Plane (October 14/04)

About the nicest thing one can say about Soul Plane is that it's not quite as bad as it could've been. Given the sheer awfulness of the film's trailer, it's a wonder the film is watchable at all; with its complete lack of plot and rampant stereotypes, Soul Plane is easily the worst Black-oriented flick to hit screens in a while (and yeah, that includes the recent Barbershop sequel).

Though it's not credited as such, the movie generally feels like a remake of Airplane! - complete with similar story elements and an abundance of jokes (though it goes without saying that few such comedic moments here have any kind of effect on the viewer other than stupefied silence). The wafer-thin storyline involves a boor named Nashawn (played by Kevin Hart) who starts his own airline after winning a multi-million dollar lawsuit. Said airline, called NWA, features a series of amenities designed to appeal to only the most stereotypical of Black folks - ie a casino and hot tub - while the staff seems wholly incompetent (the pilot has evidently never flown before).

Soul Plane gets off to a bad start almost immediately, as we're introduced to Nashawn and his shopworn antics. In a sequence that establishes the grounds for his lawsuit, Nashawn - aboard an airplane filled with "stuffy" white people - begins acting like an obnoxious, loud-mouthed idiot. He causes such a ruckus, in fact, that his beloved pet dog winds up sucked into one of the plane's jets. It's impossible not to wonder just what it is we're supposed to find funny here; the pathetically clichéd manner in which Nashawn behaves or the grisly death of an innocent animal (which is, incredibly enough, played for laughs!)

This is not to mention the extremely racist bent of the film's screenplay (by Bo Zenga and Chuck Wilson), which does admittedly skewer everyone equally but still, it's hard not to be offended by a sequence in which an Arab man boards the airplane - much to the shock and horror of everyone around him. Then again, if you thought that was hilarious, you'll undoubtedly love the rest of Soul Plane.

out of

About the DVD: MGM Home Entertainment presents Soul Plane with a letterboxed transfer, in an unrated edition that presumably adds some racy footage (not having seen the film theatrically, it's impossible for me to determine what was added). The disc also includes a fair amount of bonus material, including a raucous cast commentary, a featurette detailing the making of the film, four deleted scenes, a two-minute outtakes reel, and other assorted goodies.
© David Nusair