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Soul Plane

Olive Films // R // June 23, 2015
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted June 21, 2015 | E-mail the Author
Overheard in my living room something like ten years ago:
"Hey, Adam: why do you have Soul Plane on DVD?"
::pause for a beat::
"Hey, Adam: why do you have two copies of Soul Plane on DVD?"
Because MGM released the theatrical and unrated editions separately on DVD, obviously. While all the other reviewers on DVD Talk duke it out over Criterion releases and whatever film festival favorites have the most laurels plastered across their covers, I'm down there slogging through the trenches with Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star, Jersey Shore Shark Attack, and Housebroken. I have no one to blame but myself, so here I stand before you eleven years later, defeated and with my byline on another review of Soul Plane.

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That guy on the runway was waving around those orange cone thingies to direct Soul Plane to land on the second season of Mad TV where it belongs, but this three minute sketch of a movie instead soared clear past it, scattering the smoldering debris from its crash landing across 1,566 screens nationwide. Kevin Hart stars as Nashawn Wade, whose stroganoff-induced explosive diarrhea, ass hickey, and puréed puppy on a Worldwide Airlines flight net him a $100 million judgment. This is a guy whose previous attempts at entrepreneurship include a failed strip club-slash-daycare center, but he's got it figured out this time, sinking his newfound fortune into an airline for the 106 and Park generation. You're lookin' at Nashawn Wade Airlines, or NWA if you need the joke spelled out for you. Soul Plane dutifully chronicles the airline's maiden voyage. With an ex-con captain who's terrified of heights at the helm and the only white people on the plane being the Hunkee Family on their way back from Cracker Land (audible sigh), wackiness and all flavors of assorted hilarity are certain to ensue! Right? Right?!

Okay, I'll admit it: Soul Plane isn't as bad as I thought it'd be. I went in expecting to have my soul repeatedly stomped on with excruciatingly wretched attempts at humor, dragging me kicking and screaming into the seventh circle of comedic hell. Instead, I was just kinda bored. It has its moments early on, though.
"Chicken or beef stroganoff?"
"I'm gonna have the chicken. I like the way that smelled."
"That was our last chicken. I'm afraid I just have stroganoff."
"So why would you ask me what I wanted?"
::blank stare::
...or after the Hunkee family is introduced:
"See? Even Dad thinks you're cute."
"Get off me. You're such a whore."
"Did I stutter?"

I mean, these aren't witty bon mots you exchange in the drawing room over cucumber sandwiches (crusts removed!), but I giggled anyway. Believe it or not, Soul Plane scores a not-entirely-embarrassing number of laughs while the plane's still on the runway: the elderly service rep ignoring Tom Arnold as she button-mashes her way through random fighting game on her computer, M'onique belting out one profanity-peppered tirade after another, and...okay, that's pretty much it.

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Once the plane takes off, anything bearing a passing resemblance to comedy quickly spirals downward: plummeting, crashing, and burning. Airplane!'s sense of humor was hit-or-miss, yeah, but it unleashed such a relentless barrage of jokes that it still kept the laughs flowing pretty steadily throughout. Soul Plane, meanwhile, has an awfully anemic gag-to-laugh ratio that's made even worse since there are so few attempts at anything approaching humor. Virtually every scene seems to revolve around a single joke, and if that gag turns out to be a swing-and-a-miss (spoiler: it does), then that's another four minutes down the shitter. Some of it barely qualifies as comedy, such as two security officers belting out 50 Cent lyrics. I mean, I get the point -- to fill time in between tormenting a blinged-out passenger -- but couldn't something...y'know...funny have been crammed into its place instead? There's a bit where Mr. Hunkee runs into Karl Malone, and they reminisce about their days playing basketball together, back when Malone had the nickname "The Paperboy". Get it? Mailman? Paperb...yeah, weak, and pretty typical of what you can expect outta Soul Plane.

The whole Tom Arnold subplot is dead air, basically a mix of a prolonged "white people are like this, and brothers are like this!" routine from some shitty stand-up comic on open mic night. Some bits, like a reaction to a turban-clad Middle Eastern passenger or the "can you believe that gay guys have sex with other men?!" well it goes to over and over and over, aren't really jokes at all. For every bit that works -- a sight gag about a cartoonishly well-endowed male model on a magazine cover and the passengers in low-class being tossed boxes of Popeye's chicken for their in-flight meal -- there are a couple dozen others waist-deep in flop sweat. Oh no! Instead of saying "testing 1-2" into the mic, Snoop Dogg said "testicles 1-2!" "Fred G. Sanford: my nigga. The 'g' stands for 'going places', can you dig it?" I don't even know. You can catch most of the best gags -- and that's using "best" in a way that'd have both Merriam and Webster spinning violently in their graves -- in the trailer, like the "Survivor" safety video or the pimped-out plane with spinners and hydraulics. For a slapstick comedy, Soul Plane can get surprisingly treacly, particularly Nashawn's heartfelt tale in court about his entrepreneurial failures and a romantic angle that's lazily been shoehorned in. Soul Plane wastes enough time not being funny as it is without heading down that road, but whatever. At least Arielle Kebbel, Sofia Vergara, and K.D. Aubert are foxy enough to distract me from the worst of it.

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So, yeah: Skip It.

Soul Plane is kinda all over the place visually. Every once in a while, you'll be treated to a shot with a very fine grain structure, pronounced contrast, and a striking level of detail:

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...but far more often, grain is chunkier and less distinct, and the whole thing is mildly soft and fuzzy:

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Overall, Soul Plane looks okay. Its colors are bold and vibrant, just as you'd expect from a flick helmed by a director with that many music videos under his belt. There's borderline-nothing in the way of wear or speckling, in keeping with a master almost certainly struck around the time that Soul Plane limped into theaters just over a decade ago. It rarely approaches the heights you'd expect out of a newly minted Blu-ray disc, though.

The theatrical and unrated versions of Soul Plane are presented as two separate feature-length encodes rather than doing the whole seamless branching thing. Both cuts of the flick have been piled onto this dual-layed disc at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1.

Most comedies rocking six-channel soundtracks tend to be meek and timid, but Soul Plane's 24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio track goes straight for the jugular. The hip-hop-heavy soundtrack not surprisingly keeps the subwoofer thumping, and such effects as the plane's bouncy hydraulics are similarly reinforced by a thunderous low-frequency kick. Soul Plane doesn't treat the whole 5.1 thing as an afterthought, seizing hold of every available channel and showcasing some pretty slick pans and ping-pong-ing effects from one speaker to the next. The biggest drag is the recording of the dialogue. The same as the DVDs from 2004, a handful of lines are clipped and lightly distorted, and some of the dialogue I'm assuming was re-recorded in post doesn't match at all. A pretty solid effort overall, though.

There aren't any dubs this time around, and the subtitle options from MGM's original DVDs have been dropped.

This Blu-ray disc carries over pretty much all of the extras from MGM's DVDs from 2004. Missing in action are a trailer, a photo gallery, the audio commentary over seven deleted scenes, and the unrated version of Soul Plane's commentary (which my decade-old notes say was basically identical to the theatrical commentary but did have chatter over the additional/alternate footage).
  • Soul Plane Times Two: Like the banner on the cover art screams, this Blu-ray release piles on both the theatrical and unrated editions of Soul Plane. The unrated version features a subplot with Muggsy (Method Man) trying to bring some business to business class, first turning it into a mini-Vegas and then into a multi-ethnic strip club. The sequence on the music video set runs a little longer, with Billy Hunkee (Ryan Pinkston) quibbling over a general lack of ass. In the theatrical cut, there's a "where are they now?" epilogue (incorporating chunks of a few unrated scenes, actually), and the unrated version closes with some of the passengers and crew tearing it up in the club upstairs. Annoyingly, that theatrical closer has a couple of solid gags that aren't anywhere on the unrated cut. Dunno why so much this stuff was trimmed out of the theatrical edit since it seems like it'd net an R without any problem. The unrated version heightens some of the raunch, but in a movie that already showcased autoerotic asphyxiation and a blind man fingering a baked potato, it's not as different as you'd think. You can read up on a full list of changes at

  • Audio Commentary: Available for the theatrical cut of the flick only is a commentary track with Kevin Hart, Tom Arnold, Gary Anthony Williams, Godfrey, and director Jessy Terrero. It's not a feature-length commentary, limiting conversation to a handful of scenes. Even then, they don't really say all that much, instead content to just sit back, point, and laugh.

  • Survivor Safety (2 min.; SD): The safety video riffing on Destiny's Child's "Survivor" is served up here in full.

  • Boarding Pass: The Making of Soul Plane (26 min.; SD): Director Jessy Terrero and a gaggle of his featured players are interviewed in this half-hour-ish featurette, chatting about how the cast was nailed down, the differences between shooting a music video and a feature film, hammering out the stark height differences between the movie's two main love interests, working around Snoop's extremely limited availability, and gabbing about just how much fun they had on the set. Terrifyingly, it sounds like the first drafts of the script were even worse than what wound up on-screen.

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  • Outtakes (2 min.; SD): Jus' a couple minutes of clowning around and bursting into laughter.

  • Deleted Scenes (8 min.; SD): Once upon a time, MGM dropped seven deleted scenes on the rated disc and another four snipped sequences onto the unrated DVD. To see all that stuff back in the day, you had to buy two separate discs. Olive Films has lovingly included 'em all here, though: an alternate Karl Malone setup, a couple jabs at morbidly obese passengers, more gags with flight attendants passing out Colt 45s and Popeye's chicken, Nashawn stumbling upon another dog, public housing hos (part of me died inside typing that), some surgical fecal extraction in the bathroom, a peek in the plane's smoking section, Flame (Gary Anthony Williams) telling Billy jus' how much he loves mens, and some alternate dialogue from Heather (Arielle Kebbel) in the big black cockpit.

  • Frequent Flyer (6 min.; SD): Wait, was this on either of the original DVDs? I don't see it mentioned in my decade-old review, anyway. The cast of Soul Plane quips about what they'd like to change about air travel and groans about some of the headaches they've suffered through over the years.

  • The Upgrade (5 min.; SD): Last up is the cast raving about working with music video director Jessy Terrero on his first feature.

The Final Word
Forget it, Jake; it's Soul Plane. Skip It.
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