Soul Plane

on May 28, 2004 by Wade Major
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Music video director Jessy Terrero makes a winning feature debut with "Soul Plane," an uproarious hip-hop spin on "Airplane!" boasting just the right mix of sass and sentiment to become the summer's first genuine counter-programming hit.

After a near-disastrous flight takes the life of his beloved dog and quite nearly sucks him through the toilet, Nashawn Wade (Kevin Hart) wins a whopping $100 million settlement, which he promptly puts toward the establishment of a new airline designed to cater specifically to the underserved air travel needs of black people. From its deep purple paint job and custom rims to an exclusive upper deck hip-hop club and the homespun ghetto stylings of its economy class, everything about NWA Airlines is straight-up fly... so to speak.

Soul Plane Unfortunately, the maiden voyage of NWA #0-69, from Los Angeles to New York, has all the makings of a classic disaster, starting with an acrophobic ex-convict pilot named Captain Mack (Snoop Dogg) whose previous flight experience consists of nothing more than a few hours of simulator training. True to the "Airport" formula, there's also an assortment of personal dramas at play, starting with Nashawn's discovery that his ex-girlfriend Giselle (K.D. Aubert), with whom he's still madly in love, is on board and sporting an engagement ring. Bumped from another airline's cancelled flight, there's also a token white family consisting of single dad Elvis Hunkee (Tom Arnold), his two rebellious kids (Ryan Pinkston and Arielle Kebbel) and the blonde floozy (Missi Pyle) he hopes to recruit for stepmomship. Other colorful characters include Mo'Nique as the mouthy flight security woman Jamiqua; Method Man as Nashawn's freeloading, gold-toothed hoodlum cousin Muggsy; D.L. Hughley as Johnny, the in-flight restroom attendant; standup comic Godfrey as the spunky African copilot Gaeman and "Friday" star John Witherspoon as a blind first class passenger with wandering hands.

Unlike "Airplane!," "Soul Plane" is really more satire than spoof, balancing broad and often raw humor with some earnest and surprisingly effective emotion. To their credit, Terrero and writers Bo Zenga and Chuck Wilson limit the seriousness to only a few specific storylines, devoting the rest of the quicksilver 79-minute running time to a colorful array of refreshingly irreverent jokes and sight gags derived from the most extreme racial stereotypes imaginable. If it were any less over-the-top, it might be insulting. As it is, it's through-the-roof funny. Starring Kevin Hart, Tom Arnold, Method Man, Snoop Dogg, Mo'Nique, John Witherspoon, Missi Pyle and DL Hughley. Directed by Jessy Terrero. Written by Bo Zenga & Chuck Wilson. Produced by David Scott Rubin and Jessy Terrero. An MGM release. Comedy. Rated R for strong sexual content, language and some drug use. Running time: 79 min

Tags: Starring Kevin Hart, Tom Arnold, Method Man, Snoop Dogg, Mo'Nique, John Witherspoon, Missi Pyle and DL Hughley. Directed by Jessy Terrero. Written by Bo Zenga, Chuck Wilson, Produced by David Scott Rubin, Jessy Terrero, MGM, Comedy
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