SETTING: NEARLY EMPTY COMEDY CLUB,
ONE GRIZZLED STAND-UP VETERAN ON STAGE
“Airlines are so tight-assed these days. What would it be like if a black man ran his own airline? That’s what I’d like to see. They wouldn’t be serving you salted nuts, that’s for sure. It’d be more like: “Here’s your bucket of fried chicken. And for your in-flight beverage, sir, we have Colt 45.’”
The awful experience I had this weekend watching the new hip-hop comedy “Soul Plane” was like seeing an uncomfortably unfunny stand-up comedy routine acted out and stretched to a feature-length film.
What’s your favorite tired old racial cliche? You name it, and “Soul Plane” has got it in spades. You’ve heard it a zillion times before, and yet somewhere out there somebody still thinks it’s funny!
See, there’s these two obnoxious, loud, and overweight sistas as security guards. And they stop and harass all the attractive men with their security wands and their funky attitudes! There’s clueless white characters with the last name “Hunkee,” which is hysterically close to “Honky”! Of course, there’s also jokes about large, black male appendages, and the restaurant in the airport terminal is Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles! Such wit and brilliantly precise social satire!
I was expecting “Soul Plane” to be a take-off of the absurd humor and unbelievable gags made famous in the Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker-written movies like “Airplane!” and “The Naked Gun.” But that kind of humor involves some thought. And comic timing. “Soul Plane” has neither of those. Nor any other of the traits needed to elicit even a mere smirk. The only chuckles “Soul Plane” got out of me were two painfully forced pity laughs.
Granted, there were some small details (like the airline being named NWA) that were semi-clever. But the script never developed any potential gag into an actual funny situation. I’d leave part of the blame on B-list actors like Tom Arnold, Snoop Dogg, and Method Man, if it weren’t for the fact that “Airplane!” mines comic gold from D-listers like Leslie Neilsen, Robert Stack, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Instead, “Soul Plane” is happy to never leave the ground and just taxi around the airport on the back of so many tedious cliches.
What’s really frustrating about this film is that, in the right hands, “Soul Plane” might have worked. Somebody like Dave Chappelle, who spends an entire show sending up funny racial stereotypes every week, could have easily parodied this kind of lowest-common-denominator comedy and turned an observant eye to an otherwise dull-witted movie. At the very least, he could have made “Soul Plane” funny.