Soul Plane Movie Review

It may be crude, it may be lewd, it's certainly slapdash and stupid, but the steadily and readily hilarious "Soul Plane" stays in the air on nothing but a jet-powered fuel of out-loud laughs from very lowbrow comedy.

The flick takes place onboard the maiden flight of NWA, the first black-owned airline, started by an obnoxious layabout (the forgettable Kevin Hart) who trots out a sob story and wins an excessive $100 million award in a lawsuit against another air carrier after getting stuck in 747 toilet. (Well, that and a luggage compartment depressurized in flight, sucking his checked dog into an engine.)

It's a plotless premise on which to hang a string of largely unrelated gags, but with such a traffic jam of ribald cultural raillery, the movie actually is at its worst when newbie director Jessy Terrero tries to shoehorn in an off-the-shelf romantic subplot between the jokes.

NWA (if you don't get play on acronyms, you won't get the movie) flies out of its own terminal at LAX that boasts a Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles, a Foot Locker with a chain-net half-court for shooting hoops between flights, a 99-cent store and loud-mouthed security mamas (Mo'Nique and Loni Love) who take no sass.

Flying the airline's purple, rhinestone-encrusted 747 (complete with spinning wheel rims and hydraulics that make it nose-bounce down the runway) is boney rap bad-boy Snoop Dogg as a stoned, prison-sprung, afraid-of-heights pilot so inexperienced that his first question as he comes on board is, "Hey, where dat cockpit at?"

As for passengers, those with Benjamins to flash around sit in "High Class," decorated like a cross between a pimped-out Caddy and a private club, and featuring a washroom attendant in the jet's still-cramped toilet (it's the concept that's funny, not the cameo by D.L. Hughley). The riff-raff are regulated to "Low Class," where the overhead compartments are 25-cent train-station lockers, the TV has tin-foiled rabbit ears, the meals are buckets of Popeye's chicken ("Take a breast or leg and pass it back!" instruct the stewardesses), and the seats (if you're not stuck holding onto subway poles in the back) have been jacked from cars and other airplanes.

Thrown into this mix is an ensemble of sexy stewardesses (and one colossal gay-stereotype steward), a randy couple gung-ho for a mile-high-club triple-header, too much of a grope-happy blind man (John Witherspoon), and one lost family of white suburbanites -- notably, dopey dad Tom Arnold and freshly legal hottie daughter Arielle Kebbel. While all this may not be the fixings for a sharp-witted satire, dumb-funny is still funny if its creative, and my cheeks still hurt when the movie was over.

"Soul Plane's" script may be just a half-step above Hollywood's standard-issue stupid spoof, but Terrero seems to have a talent for spinning cheap jokes into fresh snickers. He can score with an elongated, race-baiting September 11 gag by making prejudiced paranoia the punchline, and even though he trips over a couple minor attempts at plot (it would have been more honest just to embrace the bedlam), he's laugh-savvy enough to skip all the potential chunkiness between the prologue lawsuit and the boarding of NWA's first flight.

Many of the movie's best japes I can't repeat here because they push the boundaries of bad taste (but no more so than, say, "There's Something About Mary"). Of course, some of the duds are even worse in that regard. But while you have to forgive quite a bit of folly to get to the good stuff in "Soul Plane," the flick's frequently raucous rib-ticklers are well worth it if you're predisposed to this kind of comedy.


Soul Plane Rating

" OK "

Rating: R, WIDE: Friday, May 28, 2004


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