Soul Plane (2004)

Cynthia Fuchs

Perhaps the tribulations of Snoop's home life produced the tiresome distractedness of his performance in Soul Plane.

Soul Plane

Director: Jessy Terrero
Cast: Tom Arnold, Kevin Hart, Method Man, Snoop Dogg, Dwayne Adway, D.L Hughley, Ryan Pinkston, John Witherspoon
MPAA rating: R
Studio: MGM
First date: 2004
US Release Date: 2004-05-28

A longtime anomaly for maintaining his long-term relationship, Snoop Dogg is reportedly getting a divorce. Oddly, this announcement comes just as his movie career is, um, taking off. And yet, perhaps there is a logic to this sequence of events; it might be that the tribulations of his home life produced the tiresome distractedness of his performance in Soul Plane.

The first feature film for music video director Jessy Terrero, Soul Plane is something like a "ghetto fab" parody of the famous disaster movie parody, Airplane! (1980). Just why the first parody needed more parody piled on isn't completely clear. It is clear that it's not about finding more, previously untapped comedy in the material. Snoop, for example, looks stranded as Captain Mack, player-pilot supreme, showing no sign of the comedic rhythms he's demonstrated in every other film or video in which he's appeared. Instead, and like everyone else in sight, he's caught in a non-role-as-running-gag, all their bits and pieces of scenes cut together to form some kind of non-whole.

That's not to say there's no effort to cobble a plot in the screenplay attributed to Chuck Wilson and Bo Zenga. Captain Mack does have a reason to appear, namely, to pilot the first flight of NWA, the "black" airline funded by a $100 million court ruling for Nashawn (Kevin Hart). The case has not much to do with a first sequence, in which Nashawn's cute little puppy is blasted out of a "white" plane's cargo hold and sucked into the engine mid-flight. (The recurring abuse of little dogs as a favorite joke in recent gross-out comedies remains its own mystery.)

Nashawn's bad-good fortune -- the latter instigated by a simply terrible "my poor mama" speech in the witness box -- leads to his purchase of a big fat purple plane with colossal spinning rims, an awesome hydraulics system, and its own point of departure in L.A., Terminal Malcolm X. Along with Captain "Smoke like a chimney" Mack, the crew includes Nashawn's no-count cousin Muggsy (Method Man, less convincing here than in the Alicia Keys video), a squad of stews (including Blanca [Sofía Vergara] and Flame [Gary Anthony Williams]), and a sex-starved security person (Mo'Nique), who tells one passenger, "We Feds now! We can violate every one of your civil rights!" Not to mention John Witherspoon as a lecherous, lip-smacking blind passenger, a walking punchline that's exhausted long before he steps on screen, and the copilot, Gaemon (Godfrey C. Danchimah), whose name incites a string of ostensible jokes, including the usual allusions to transvestites, gay priests, and Michael Jackson.

The super plane they all service boasts any number of amenities ("Our plane is hiphop," says Terrero in the press kit): a dance club featuring Lil Jon and the Ying Yang Twins (and a minute of "Salt Shaker"), a Jacuzzi, a strippers' stage with poles, a bathroom with voyeuristic attendant (D.L. Hughley), and a music video in lieu of the usual dullsville flight-info video, featuring the attendants singing a decidedly unnerving revision of "Survivor," referring to all the bad things that might happen on a flight. To follow up, the movie runs through a seeming checklist of images to make everyone equally offended and nervous, from the requisite traveler in a turban to the pilot who's earned his wings on a penitentiary's computer flight simulator.

Also endangered -- and riding in "low class," which resembles a subway, with standing room and pay-lockers -- are a passel of white people, installed to provide startled reaction shots. Elvis Hunkey (Tom Arnold) is traveling with his pouty girlfriend Barbara (Missi Pyle), soon enchanted by a mythically well-hung black man who happens to sit down next to her while she's admiring male models' packages in Black & Proud magazine. Elvis is distracted though, by the fact that his daughter Heather (Arielle Kebbell), just turning 18, is taunting him with the assorted sex acts she's planning to perform (that her potential partners are black only further unnerves her daddy). Loudly less anxious around the black folks is Elvis' son Billy (Ryan Pinkston), decked out in headband, sports jersey, and chains, and learning to direct booty music videos with Chris Robinson (who must have something better to do with his time than pretend to take sex-imagery advice from a 12-year-old Punk'd field agent).

Though Nashawn is largely missing during this $16 million string of alternating sex and fart jokes (for which stand-up comedian Hart might be grateful), he's hauled back in at the end to rehash poor Robert Hay, that is, to make an effort to reunite with an ex-girlfriend, Giselle (K.D. Aubert), and to land the plane when a modicum of disaster strikes (this has to do with Snoop's effectively checking out of the film altogether). By this point, though, it's hard to care whether they make amends or even manage a safe landing. Soul Plane's long since lost its bearings.





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