(A crackle is heard over the speakers inside the airplane cabin.)
Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. Right now, we are cruising at 30,000 feet, and from what the flight attendants have told me, everything is fine except for one tiny problem: we are not going to show an in-flight movie because of technical difficulties. Sorry to disappoint you folks. How about this? Since I like movies as much as many of you, why don’t I take a few moments to tell you about a movie I saw recently? It’s a comedy taking place on a commercial flight. No, it’s not the 1980 comedy movie Airplane!, which I love. Rather, it’s the 2004 film Soul Plane, a movie that could be quite funny if done well, but in actuality ends up trying too hard without significantly good results.
In Soul Plane, Kevin Hart plays a guy named Nashawn Wade who has a really bad flight experience. How bad? Well, it ends with him getting his butt stuck in an airplane toilet in the worst possible time: turbulence. And his dog dies because an idiot flight attendant presses the wrong button and opens the plane’s cargo hold. But there is a happy ending to this. He files a lawsuit against the airline and wins a settlement of a hundred million dollars. What does Nashawn plan to do with it? Start his own airline, one that would hopefully be better than any other.
The result is NWA Airlines. (Hmmm, is that a reference to the rap group NWA?) This is certainly an airline like no other. It’s owned by an African-American man and run by an entirely African-American staff, from the security staff to the pilot. Speaking of which, you’re going to love the pilot. Captain Antoine Mack, played by Snoop Dogg, doesn’t really have solid flight experience but claims to be qualified just because he learned to fly from computer simulators (while in prison, by the way). As for the passengers, most of them are black, given the demographics of the airline staff. The notable exception is Tom Arnold and Missy Pyle as a white couple along with two kids, who end up on this airline because of problems with the one they originally booked with.
OK, so you get the idea. This is a comedy that relies on African-American stereotypes as the source of humor. You can see it in pretty much everything once you enter the NWA Airlines section of the airport terminal. There’s Loni Love and Mo’Nique as two wisecracking ladies working security, a few sexy stewardesses (including one played by Sofia Vergara), metal lockers for overheard baggage compartments, a flight safety video in the form of a music video, adult magazines as in-flight reading material, and hydraulics built into the plane for it to bounce to hip-hop beats before takeoff (which finally occurs at close to the 40-minute mark of this one-and-a-half hour movie). Oh, and there’s also a strip club somewhere in the cabin.
There’s not really a plot in this movie, nor are there characters that are totally worth caring about. Think of this movie as a sketch comedy where each scene is a humorous show of its own. A movie that has good silly jokes, even without plot or character development, can still be entertaining. After all, Airplane! from 1980 was that kind of movie. However, that was a brilliantly funny movie because the gags were often unexpected and involved the element of surprise. In Soul Plane, the jokes tend to be more predictable or otherwise overdone to the point where the actors are clearly trying too hard to be funny instead of just being natural. Of course, if you don’t like humor based on stereotypes, that’s another reason to not like this movie.
For me, there were a few entertaining moments, but my level of enjoyment was minimal at best. If Soul Plane is your kind of comedy, fine. But I’m going to rate this movie as a 4/10 for having an interesting idea for a comedy, but not executing it well enough. It’s not that the moments in the movie are too outrageous (Airplane! was also outrageous, but that’s OK). It’s just that I needed to laugh out loud and often, and I ended up laughing little and infrequently. Obviously, if someone gave me a copy of Soul Plane and suggested it as an in-flight movie, I would say no. I would only suggest that the movie be shown as an in-flight movie on NWA Airlines, if that were to actually exist.
Anyway, thank you for your time. We’ll be landing at our destination about two hours or so. Over and out.
(Review originally published at AntFilmReview.com)