Soul Plane Review

Examples of the non-military, non-disaster aircraft/airport move are too disparate to constitute a genre unto themselves. Yet the lightweight satire of View from the Top, the flimsy romance of Come Fly With Me and that curious brand of restrained British melodrama which populates Out of the Clouds all share one thing in common: a certain vapidity. Indeed, each must regularly make a landing or two in order to escape the confines of the cockpit and passenger aisles and broaden its narrative, though often to little effect. Once off the ground, Soul Plane remains in the air until its final reel, yet despite being a more elaborate mode of transport than the average model (it has its own dancefloor, for example), it too suffers from this curse of tedium.

Soul Plane’s opening moments, involving a bout of diarrhoea and a dog being sucked into an aircraft engine, would suggest that we are about to witness a revision of the Airplane! movies à la the Wayans brothers. There’s even a certain logic to this considering that David Zucker, with Leslie Nielsen in tow, has taken over the Scary Movie franchise, but Jessy Terrero’s direction lacks even the limited focus of ZAZ’s patented hit-and-miss approach. Rather, Soul Plane collects various rappers, a bunch of relatively unknown young comics (only DL Hughley, one of The Original Kings of Comedy is likely to known in the UK) plus Tom Arnold - inexplicable the gangsta’s white comedian of choice following supporting roles in Exit Wounds and Cradle 2 the Grave - and places them within an episodic, semi-improvisatory series of sketches that never really work out where they wish to go. (Ironic, of course, as the flight itself has a pre-planned destination.) Only Kevin Hart, in the lead role as the airline’s owner, is provided with anything remotely resembling a backstory, resulting in the most inconsequential of romantic subplots - one which, despite all of the clowning around elsewhere, we are supposed to take, sentimentality and all, completely seriously.

Indeed, Soul Plane often feels more like a montage of scenes from differing movies rather than a film in its own right, especially as the interaction between the characters outside of their own mini-“narratives” is rudimentary at best. In fact “movies” may be the wrong term as the governing stylistic mode here is that of the music video rather than any kind of cinematic influence. On the one hand this does differentiate Soul Plane from the Wayans brothers’ style of filmmaking and the more agreeable Ice Cube-starring blend (Friday, Barbershop and their respective sequels). On the other, however, it serves to demonstrate the worst excesses of promos by extending their length from four minutes to almost 90. Of course, it should hardly come as a shock to learn that Terrero’s previous experience comes almost solely from hip-hop music videos, having worked with Snoop Dogg (who appears here) and 50 Cent amongst others. Moreover, the casting decisions likewise prove less than surprising as not only have many of the rap artists found here worked with the director, but also the comedians present - and Tom Arnold - are of the type who would make guest appearances in such promos. And with such a semblance between Soul Plane and those in heavy rotation on MTV it should also make perfect sense that this films adds up to little more than a flimsy, instantly forgettable storyline, populated with stock characters (with the women being as objectified as possible of course) and shot with the glossiest imaginable photography.

The Disc

For a such a recently made film, Soul Plane unsurprisingly looks and sounds fine on DVD. The original 1.85:1 ratio has been cropped slightly to 1.78:1 (to no discernible difference) and is presented with anamorphic enhancement. Both the darker scenes set in the cockpit and the neon-lit dancefloor and the lighter moments during the opening minutes are presented with no noticeable problems, the former being especially impressive. As for the sound, a DD5.1 mix proves equally adept at handling the dialogue and the seemingly non-stop parade of hip-hop tracks that linger in the background.

With regards to the special features, Soul Plane is fairly packed though sadly most prove worthless. The major pieces are a cast and director commentary and the 24-minute featurette. The former is surprisingly amusing. Terrero attempts to discuss some of his intentions with the film, but it constantly interrupted by his various cast members who seem happier to take the piss. Tom Arnold, in particular, refuses to take anything seriously. The featurette, on the other hand, lacks any humour and instead is the standard sycophantic EPK piece. Everybody tells the camera how great everybody else is and the viewer gains only the bare minimum of insights - which largely boil down to the fact that Hart is very short.

Bizarrely, there is a second featurette, entitled The Upgrade, which appears to consist of outtakes from the first. With no structure this piece simply lurches from love-in to love-in, but is thankfully only four minutes long. The genuine outtakes (from the picture that is) are equally disappointing, consisting as they do of barely two minutes of corpsing and fluffed lines.

Elsewhere, the disc finds the space for 11 deleted scenes (seven of which have an optional commentary by Terrero), though again these are brief and mostly consist of either scenes which were cut for timing reasons or improvisations that didn’t really fit. The only other extras are a gallery of production still and the original theatrical trailer. Strangely for a film which contains so much music, so many musicians and is directed by a music video producer, not a single promo is contained.

As with the main feature, all extras (including commentaries) come with optional English or Dutch subtitles.

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Last updated: 25/06/2018 18:05:21

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