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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this risqué comedy is the last film to star popular comedian Bernie Mac, who died a few months before its release. It also stars Samuel L. Jackson; younger fans of either actor may want to see the film, but it's not being targeted to kids or teens. The jokes -- and sex scenes -- are definitely R-rated (breasts and buttocks are shown during love scenes, and there's frequent strong language and plenty of Viagra jokes). That said, despite the raunchiness, there are overarching themes of friendship, loyalty, redemption, and seizing opportunities.
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What's the story?
In his final performance, Bernie Mac stars as Floyd, a retired businessman who was once in a famous Motown-like trio: Marcus Hooks and the Real Deal. When Marcus (a perfectly cast cameo by singer John Legend) -- the Marvin Gaye-meets-Michael Jackson singer who left the Real Deal behind for solo superstardom -- dies, Floyd convinces his ex-con former singing partner Louis (Samuel L. Jackson) to reunite for a tribute service at the Apollo Theater. On their way from L.A. to Harlem, the road-tripping duo warms up at various spots across the country.
Is it any good?
SOUL MEN, directed by Malcolm D. Lee, is by no means extraordinary, but it highlights Mac's comedic gifts enough to be a fitting swan song to his film career. Not only does Mac get a starring role instead of his more-frequent supporting gigs, but he's the humor to Jackson's righteousness (as in all of Jackson's films, he spouts some memorable monologues). Mac and Jackson's odd-couple chemistry propels this otherwise forgettable comedy forward, and Mac's improvisational delivery is a reminder of why he'll be sorely missed.
Mac fans should watch through the credits, which are entirely devoted to Mac's outtakes and off-camera interviews. Lee dedicated the comedy to Mac and Isaac Hayes -- "two real soul men" who died a day apart in August 2008. The latter appears as himself, the Black Moses of soul, in a small role. If for no other reason, this comedy is memorable for being their shared encore.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the movie's themes regarding second chances. How do Floyd and Louis help each other? What do they learn on their cross-country adventure? Families can also discuss how the movie handles stereotypes. Are some of the jokes exploitative? If so, why? Is this a fitting end to Mac's comedic legacy?
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