Soul Plane

Laura Clifford Robin Clifford 

Soul Plane
Robin Clifford Robin Clifford 

After getting his butt vacuum-sealed to an airplane toilet and watching his dog get sucked into the engine, Nashawn (Kevin Hart, "Along Came Polly") exercises his American right to sue and is awarded so much money he starts his own, specialized airline NWA with one purple "Soul Plane."

This horribly racist, unfunny attempt at an Africanized "Airplane" strains for the one laugh two large security women provide before even that joke literally goes down the toilet.  The IMDB informs that director Jessy Terrero is the nephew of "Raising Victor Vargas'" grandmother, Altagracia Guzman.  I can only hope she slapped him upside the head for this.

As Nashawn and his opportunistic cousin Muggsy (Method Man, "How High") prepare for the inauguration of their new commercial endeavor, the Hunkee (pronounced 'honky') family's return vacation flight is cancelled and they're rebooked on Soul Plane.  Dad (Tom Arnold, "Cradle 2 the Grave"), teenaged daughter Heather (Arielle Kebbel) and girlfriend Barbara (Missi Pyle, "Big Fish") all gape at the Malcolm X terminal with its basketball court and 99 cent store while son Billy (Ryan Pinkston, "Bad Santa") adapts the look and lingo.  Stewardesses with skirts barely skimming their behinds direct the Hunkee brood to 'low class,' and Captain Mack (Snoop Dogg, "Starsky & Hutch"), an ex-con whose only experience is with flight simulators, bounces the aerial equivalent of a low-rider down the runway.  Mack succumbs to an overdose of magic mushrooms, his copilot Gaeman (Godfrey, "Johnson Family Vacation") knocks himself out getting out of the upper deck's hot tub and Nashawn must figure out how to land the plane and woo back his former girlfriend Giselle (K.D. Aubert, "Hollywood Homicide") who just happens to be on board.

Writers Bo Zenga and Chuck Wilson try to pass off vulgarity as humor (a blind man who thinks he is a player 'fingers' a baked potato on the seat next to him) and pile on so many black stereotypes that the only things missing are a watermelon eating contest and a minstrel show. While unintentional cruelty to animals can be made amusing (see "There's Something About Mary" or "Starsky & Hutch"), the intentional kind is just nasty.  Naming a character Gaeman in order to trot out rancid gay jokes is at best uninspired and a gay steward is lazy cliche.  Jeff Wallace's ("Swordfish") ugly, cheap looking art direction features a plane which looks constructed of cardboard without any attempt at spacial reality.

Watch for "Soul Plane's" appearance on score's of 'Worst Ten' lists come the end of the year. Snoop, what were you thinking?


Nashawn Wade (Kevin Hart) should have known he was in for the flight from hell. First, a petty flight attendant won’t let him take his beloved little dog on board with him. Then, he can’t have the chicken dish he wants and has to settle for the “stroganoff.” Finally, when the food doesn’t agree, he is almost sucked down the toilet in the lavatory. He sues the airline to the tune of $100 million and decides no one should have a travel experience like his. The result: Nashawn Wade Airlines, a one aircraft operation that will put the fly back in flying in “Soul Plane.”

First time feature helmer, music vid director Jessy Terrero, and company must have thought, when they read the script for “Soul Plane” (by Bo Zenga and Chuck Wilson), that they had the new millennium “Airplane!” on their hands. How can you go wrong with a plot that has Nashawn establishing an airline for African Americans with Colt 45 malt licker, chicken, sexy stewardesses, a huge disco dance floor, full service Jacuzzi and, in first class, all the comforts of home? All that is necessary is to plug in a bunch of bawdy jokes and, voila, you have an instant classic comedy. Unfortunately, it ain’t so.

One problem is the casting of Kevin Hart in the pivotal role of Nashawn. Hart, in his first starring role, doesn’t have the experience and straight man presence to anchor what should be a rapid-fire comedy. Instead of being droll and hip, Nashawn wanders about with a wide-eyed innocence that doesn’t click with the attempted wild and crazy comedy.

Frankly, I found the lowbrow toilet humor, raunchy sex talk and racial stereotypes – both black and white – to be insulting. Maybe I take my comedy too seriously but I think there is more to movie humor than a teen daughter telling her father all the nasty and graphic things she plans to do, sexually, when she reaches her majority in a few hours. This is not something that parents want to hear. Copious use of toilet gags grows tired after the first time but there are several more throughout “Soul Plane.” Another gripe is the stupid, tasteless and obvious at humor in the copilot's name, Gaeman (Godfrey), which lends to making fun of the gay community. This is a full-service insult movie.

I was surprised that the mostly black audience at the screening seemed to have a generally positive reaction to the puerile humor that only appeals to the lowest common denominator. I guess a free screening makes one a little more tolerant to juvenile, insulting comedy. I wonder what the reaction would be after spending ten bucks a ticket to see this turkey.

It should make you wonder right off the bat when the first billed actor in what is a “black” comedy is Tom Arnold as Ellis Hunkee (get it?). His character, a real schlemiel of a single parent trying to bond with his sullen, insulting teen daughter, Heather (Arielle Kebbel), control his born-to-be-a-brotha son, Billy (Ryan Pinkston), and woo his trophy girlfriend, Barbara (Missi Pyle), who soon has eyes (and more) for a handsome black model. This fish-out-of-water portion of the so-called story is supposed to show the Hunkees as strangers in a strange land but devolves into an insipid bit of familial bonding as Ellis makes peace with his daughter. This is a major plotline in “Soul Plane.” Go figure.

Urban comedy regulars Snoop Dog and Method Man are the “name” draws to “Soul Plane” but I was really disappointed in Snoop. He is supposed to be a pilot who has never flown a real plane before and has a fear of heights. His near cameo presence doesn’t come close to improving things. Method Man, as Nashawn’s conniving cousin has a few bright moments, though not nearly enough to help this dog.

Production design by Robb Buono is in keeping with the dumbness of “Soul Plane.”  The one plane in NW Airlines is a big, purple monster with free spinning hubcaps and a hydraulic system that allows it to bounce down the runway to the beat of the music. There is also the class joke with the cool people on board in first class while the rest of the dreck is relegated to the “low class” section. Funny stuff? No. Maybe the laughs are supposed to come when the Hunkees are sent to board their plane at Terminal Malcolm X but even this piece of wit gets the lowbrow treatment.

One of the charms of “Airplane!” and its spin off is that if you didn’t like a joke just wait a moment another will be right along. This lack, the utter tastelessness and insulting humor – and “Soul Plane” insults regardless of race or creed – make me hope that people stay away in droves. I give it a D-

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