A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
In the fight against prejudice and oppression, society often takes two steps forward and one step back in the quest for equality and fair treatment. Ellis Haizlip created a show that "was revolutionary on national television at the time." He changed attitudes about what it meant to be Black, "changing people's minds about Black folks." It's neither militant nor radical to speak up for your own rights.
Positive Role Models
Ellis Haizlip had an extraordinary eye for talent and presented many talented Black dancers, poets, singers, musicians, and actors on national television before they became well known. Haizlip's gayness is discussed as a reason that some members of his family may not have accepted him, even though he continued to maintain close familial ties. A friend recalls that gay people at the time were mostly closeted and referred to as "sissy," "effeminate," and "different." Haizlip interviews the head of the Nation of Islam, Elijah Mohammad, a leader who condemned homosexuality. Pressed, he says his religion and God embrace everyone, but wonders "whence came this perversion?" Calling it "perversion" somewhat dampens his proclaimed "acceptance."
Violence & Scariness
Archival footage shows police beating Black protestors drawing attention to unfair practices. News footage from the Vietnam War is shown, featuring bombings, bodies, and caskets. Recently-drafted heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali says he won't kill innocent people in Southeast Asia. Someone commits suicide.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
"F--k," "s--t," and "balls. The "N" word is used frequently in poetry by Black artists.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Drug use is mentioned, sometimes in poems about the dangers of drug use. Adults smoke cigarettes.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Mr. Soul! is a 2018 documentary about Ellis Haizlip, the influential Black producer and host of iconic Black culture television show, Soul! that ran from 1968 to 1973. Archival footage and interviews with those who participated in creating and performing on the show demonstrate the lasting importance that a national public television show made by and for the Black community had and continues to have. Infrequent use of "f--k," "s--t," "balls," and the "N" word, as well as visuals of police violence against protesters and Black people rioting. Someone commits suicide. Drug use is mentioned, sometimes in poems about the dangers of drug use. Adults smoke cigarettes. Haizlip's gayness is discussed as a reason that some members of his family may not have accepted him, even though he continued to maintain close familial ties. A friend recalls that gay people at the time were mostly closeted and referred to as "sissy," "effeminate," and "different." This may be the first introduction for many teens to the difficulty Black performers faced in gaining representation on national television, as well as the political implications of those restrictions. The film is directed by Haizlip's niece, Melissa Haizlip. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
In Mr. Soul!, some admirers make credible arguments that Ellis Haizlip's contributions to the visibility of Black figures and Black culture in America was hugely influential for generations that followed. Some say those contributions paved the way, directly or indirectly, to progress made by people of color in terms of representation in the media, breaking through into professions previously cut off to Black people, to the Black Lives Matter movement, to the prominence of Oprah Winfrey, to the election of President Barak Obama, and other breakthrough advancements. Director Melissa Haizlip brings a justified admiration to this portrayal of her uncle, who would now be in his 90s. The real treasure here is the unearthing of performances by young artists, some of them live on the Soul! stage, that are riveting.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.