Written by: Carol Black
Directed by: Steve Miner
Starring: C. Thomas Howell, Rae Dawn Chong, James Earl Jones, Arye Gross, Linda Hoy, and Leslie Nielsen
- Running audio commentary with director Miner and Howell
- TV spots
Released by: Anchor Bay
My Advice: Pass
Mark Watson (Howell) has it all: good grades, great test scores, everything a graduating senior needs to get into the school of his choice: Harvard. Except the school of his choice won’t give him the scholarship he needs. The only available financial aid is a minority scholarship, and if Mark were any more white he’d be translucent.
[ad#longpost]So, with a leap of logic typically reserved for the seriously drug-addled, he decides to make himself a minority. Some pills, and voila! He’s a badly disguised not-quite black guy (actually, he’s a vaguely dyed-burnt umber guy that still looks like a white guy with a bad jerry curl). So he applies for the minority scholarship, and, due to some apparently VERY near-sighted admissions council members, gets it.
Of course, the situation gets complicated when he falls in love with Sarah (Chong). She’s struggling through school, busting her ass because she doesn’t have a minority scholarship, and this fact starts to cause some guilt on Mark’s part. Meanwhile, he’s getting his ass handed to him by the hard-nosed Professor Banks (Jones), and suffering the occasional act of discrimination from the white elite students.
Soul Man is a painful movie to watch. While not a huge fan of the sweeping political correctness hysteria that infested the world some time in the early 1990s, there’s a certain point at which the inherent racism in the film makes me cringe. Yet the filmmakers didn’t have the guts to throw a real racist moment at our titular character, instead settling for kid gloves and dancing around the issue.
The performances are pretty much forgettable, though Chong is doing her damnedest, and Jones is throwing every ounce of credibility behind his role–but it’s just flat not enough to save this one. Howell manages to hit every lame stereotype in his caricature of blackness, but in all respects just comes across as mocking instead of failing in an earnest imitation.
Stay away from this one, kids. It’s dangerously lame and could leave permanent scars. I’d say that hardcore Howell fans will want it for completeness, but honestly, who here believes there are hardcore Howell fans?
That’s what I thought.