The second distaff remake in two months with a predominantly black cast, "Soul Plane"loosely based on 1980's classic "Airplane!"is not quite as physically painful as "Johnson Family Vacation
"loosely based on 1983's classic "National Lampoon's Vacation"but these two updates are still far too close in quality for comfort. Directed without flair or style by Jessy Terrero, the number of laughs "Soul Plane" accumulates during its 86-minute running time could be counted on one hand (maybe two). The rest is simply languorous, clunky, and out-and-out unoriginal.
When Nashawn (Kevin Hart) experiences a terrible airplane mishap that leaves his backside seriously injured and his dog dead, he promptly sues the company and collects $100-million. With his newfound wealth, he creates NWA, his own airline targeted toward African American passengers and complete with first-class and "low-class" seating and a hip-hop club on the second floor. The maiden voyage from L.A. to New York fails to go off without a hitch. The pot-smoking pilot, Captain Mack (Snoop Dogg), has never flown a plane before and is afraid of heights. Due to a canceled flight, Mr. Hunkee (Tom Arnold) and his family find themselves the only white people on the plane. And Nashawn unexpectedly comes face to face with his beloved ex-girlfriend, Giselle (K.D. Aubert), who is a passenger on the flight.
Remaking great films that weren't exactly in need of improvements or revisitation always runs the risk of having shameful results, and "Soul Plane" is no exception. Whereas "Airplane!" held an endless stream of one outrageous slapstick gag after the next, "Soul Plane" screenwriters Bo Zenga and Chuck Wilson are not nearly as capable or ambitious in their humor. The film either reaches for the most tasteless or potentially offensive stereotypical humor it can find, or just gives up altogether and actually tries to treat the storylines seriously. These aims of sincerity, such as the romantic rekindling of Nashawn and Giselle, fall flat as a pancake and have none of the zing that Robert Hays and Julie Hagerty had in "Airplane!"
The comedy is, for the most part, not much better. Jessy Terrero's direction is strictly amateur-night, as he doesn't seem to have the first idea how to successfully set up a joke and pay it off with such things as tight editing, assured performances, and solid writing. Save for a few gags that do workthe "Caucasian adapter" toilet seat Tom Arnold uses; the loud, tell-it-like-it-is antics of the airport security guard (a scene-stealing Mo'Nique); the excitement the white passengers elicit when they find out the in-flight movie is going to be "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood
"most of the comedy aims for cheap obviousness over genuine cleverness. Meanwhile, the slapdash ensemble of characters move in and out of scenes with no detectable rhythm, some of them disappearing for inordinately long stretches and others never even showing up again to wrap up their respective subplot. Sexual jokes involving loaded baked potatoes and erotic asphyxiation are especially embarrassing.
Even viewed as nothing more than an intentionally stupid spoof (which is what it is), "Soul Plane" is wafer-thin and instantly forgettable. Its innate meanness in stereotyping all races, ethnicities, and sexualities imaginable is lessened, at least, because nothing should be taken too seriously to begin with. This fact, however, does not take away from how piddling and dreary the experience of watching it is. If "Soul Plane" succeeds at anything, it will likely inspire viewers to immediately rewatch "Airplane!" to wash out the bad taste this new movie pollutes into their mouths.