When he sues an airline for killing his dog, Nashawn Wade (Kevin Hart), a young black entrepreneur, wins the case and is awarded US$100 million dollars. He decides to use the money to start his own airline, with the help of his cousin Muggsy (Method Man). As the airline sets off on its first-ever flight to New York, most of the passengers seem mainly caught up in their own sex lives - but Nashawn is a little worried by the suspiciously casual attitude of their pilot, Captain Mack (Snoop Dogg).
Review by Jake Wilson:
Belonging squarely to the mainstream of Afro-American low comedy, Soul Plane is a plotless parade of brash stereotypes - including an imperiously queeny steward, a pilot who trained with the Taliban, and enough nubile young women for an entire swimsuit calendar. (Best of all are Mo'Nique and Loni Love as a couple of lecherous security guards - more than turning the tables on the men, this pair deserve their own sitcom.) Within its genre, the film stands out mainly for its celebration of luxury: where Ice-T's Friday series gets endless mileage from the bickering between working stiffs, here the nominal hero is a millionaire who leads a (literally) high-flying lifestyle, the sharp edge of the joke being our awareness of how implausible such success remains in real life.
Indeed, the film doesn't always seem sure whether it's celebrating black aspirations or using the premise as a vehicle for satire. The flight that takes up most of the running time is like one big party, where in time-honoured carnival tradition many social conventions are turned upside down (as represented by Tom Arnold and family, white people are a marginal minority group). But the allegory is both compounded and confused by the class distinctions that remain in force: up the front, wealthy studs loll as in a five star hotel, while in the cramped economy section the passengers gnaw on chicken wings and view the pilot's instructions on an old, broken TV.
Then again, sex, rather than class or race, is the film's main preoccupation. All of the twenty or so featured characters are hot to trot, from Arnold's barely-legal daughter to the doddering Ray Charles lookalike who uses blindness as an excuse to grope every woman within reach. Even attraction across racial lines is less of a taboo than usual. But for all the sexy talk there's an odd absence of onscreen action; instead, we get cutaways to the film's ultimate phallic symbol, the gleaming purple aircraft itself.
Technically speaking, Soul Place is slick and well-paced, with wall-to-wall music and colorful sets and costumes helping to maintain the upbeat mood (many of the production design details have wit in their own right, like the dice Captain Mack hangs from his rear-view mirror). Obviously, comedy of this kind has its limitations: there's none of the out-of-the-blue absurdism of the Ben Stiller school, much less the kind of visual invention which a truly gifted comic filmmaker might have brought to the plane's confined spaces. But on its own terms this is fun, densely populated and more generous-spirited than most of its rivals. There are, unusually, no villains; and I left the cinema feeling that a good time was had by all.
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SOUL PLANE (MA)
CAST: Tom Arnold, Kevin Hart, Method Man, Snoop Dogg, K.D. Aubert, Godfrey, Brian Hooks
PRODUCER: Paul Hall, David Rubin, Jessy Terrero, Bo Zenga
DIRECTOR: Jessy Terrero
SCRIPT: Bo Zenga, Chuck Wilson
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jonathan Sela
EDITOR: Michael R. Miller
MUSIC: Christopher Lennertz
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Robb Buono
RUNNING TIME: 86 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Fox
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 18, 2004