In late summer of 2008 we lost comedian Bernie Mac. He was funny, honest, and told it like it is. He had some success with The Bernie Mac Show, which used some experiences from his life to entertain its viewers. However, he really never had much success on the silver screen, but Soul Men would have changed that.
Bernie Mac and Samuel L. Jackson are Floyd Henderson and Louis Hinds, two thirds of an R&B trio called Marcus Hooks and the Real Deal. Marcus decides he wants to be a solo act, and leaves the group, finding greater success than the trio ever did. Floyd and Louis try their own solo careers and don’t have as much success. The two have a falling out over a woman, and they go their separate ways.
Some 20 years later, Marcus dies of a heart attack and Floyd and Louis are asked to perform at his funeral. When we catch up with the two we learn through a VH-1 Behind The Music montage that Floyd was able to manage his money well and has a successful car dealership and is doing quite well for himself. Louis unfortunately has mismanaged his money and is living in a run-down apartment and is eating dog food to survive. The duo must put aside their differences and travel across the country to perform at the Apollo Theater.
The film is definitely a buddy movie, but it works. Jackson and Mac are believable as former friends who resent each other because of a woman. They also have great chemistry on screen and are very funny. I think part of the chemistry comes from the fact that Mac and Jackson were longtime friends in real life. It’s a shame that Mac has passed away as I could see a number of films with these two co-starring. Additionally, legendary performer Isaac Hayes has a small role in the film and this is his last role as he also passed away the same weekend as Bernie Mac.
The DVD has a number of good extras. Leading things off is a commentary with director Malcolm Lee and writers Robert Ramsey and Matthew Stone. The trio go over all aspects of the film — casting, the writing process, how Hayes had to take the place of Randy Jackson when Jackson’s flight got delayed and his schedule wouldn’t allow him to get to the set in time, and of course they praise Jackson, Hayes, and Mac’s performances.
There are several featurettes which cover the overall making of the film, each running less than 10 minutes. "The Soul Men: Bernie Mac & Samuel L. Jackson" covers the friendship between the two stars and how that translated to the big screen. "The Cast of Soul Men" is exactly what it sounds like and covers the actors and actresses who appear in the film. "Director Malcolm Lee" is a very short (under three minutes) featurette about the director of the film. And each of the departed stars gets his own tribute in "A Tribute to Bernie Mac" and "A Tribute to Isaac Hayes." Don’t skip the credits as there is more of a tribute to both men who have left this world too soon.
"Boogie Ain't Nuttin': Behind The Scenes" shows Mac and Jackson in the recording studio taping the vocals for their songs, and the duo can sing quite well! Finally the best extra has to be "Bernie Mac at The Apollo" which shows Mac entertaining the extras in between takes and showcases his humor and talent and reminds us of what was taken from us. It’s under five minutes and I could have watched hours of Mac performing stand-up. Mac has one more movie to be released to add to his performing legacy.