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Soul Man
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Reviews & Ratings for
Soul Man More at IMDbPro »

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29 out of 39 people found the following review useful:

a awesome but misunderstood film

Author: PeteStud from australia
30 April 2004

In this day of PC rubbish this film probably would cop a lot of flak if it was re released. People actually picketed this film in its day and it has been given the needle from Spike Lee and Eddie Murphy. Well, I am black and didnt find it offensive at all, in fact if people want to attack it and say it is they might want to look at more deserving features that are released nowadays . I personally find most of the stereotypes in the aforementioned directors films quite insulting but that doesnt mean I will hate their work. This movie, although a little awkward in its delievery is obviously made with good intention and should be commended for telling a story with very truthful elements to it. If you cannot see that then you are missing the point. The best and most significant scene is when Mark watson sits down with his rich white girlfriends family for dinner. the scenes they evision are absolutely hilarious and painfully real ...especially priceless is Leslie Nielsens thoughts. a very very funny but misunderstood film (by the wowsers anyhow). relax and enjoy a great teen flick with a real message underlying, if nothing else enjoy the scenery chewing by James Earl Jones, Rae Dawn Chong , Leslie Nielsen and a early Julia Louis-Dreyfus. excellent fun.

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14 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

" I exceeded the recommended dosage."

Author: cousteau
24 July 2001

Pills that can tan your entire body?! Huh. ;)

C.Thomas Howell is so good in his role. His charm is so intoxicating and you always wanna laugh at him. He looks like a cuter version of steve-o from jackass, with discolored skin and a black curly 'fro! He looks so obviously NOT black.

The best part of this film is the editing style. I recently discovered the importance of editing; it's good that this one was edited at a very quick and entertaining pace, otherwise it would've seemed outdated by today.

I actually think a film like this would make it today, since there's a heavy backlash from the '90's 'political correctness' theme. There are some heavy themes here, (although it's a comedy) but C.Thomas Howell keeps you wanting more. Supporting roles from James Earl Jones, the character Sarah, and her son are all great, but C.Thomas Howell keeps this film timeless; he is perfect.

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11 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Silly, but very funny

Author: Meredith-7 from Melbourne, Australia
22 November 1999

I remember watching this in my early teens, and thinking it was one of the funniest films that I had seen. Watching it again over 10 years later, its still pretty funny. In the age of political correctness it probably has quite poor taste, but thats not its intention. Its a lightweight comedy, and thats the way it should be taken. There are a few moments where a message and moral does come through, especially in the later half of the film. This adds to the films charm, as well as giving people a fairly superficial albeit correct notion of the social struggle faced by some races. C Thomas Howell was very good in this film, and I feel that its a shame that he does not make that many feature films these days- he seems to appear a lot in direct to video films. It was also interesting to watch Julia Louis-Dreyfuss in her very pre-Seinfeld days, before she became Elaine. This really is a funny film, very unbelievable but heaps better than the lame comedies that the big studios are serving up these days.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Never explores the reality of the issue, at least not as much as it should

8/10
Author: raisleygordon from Ladson, SC
12 September 2010

This is a potentially great idea for movie, and it does live up to its potential. And it's funny enough. But it doesn't deal with the reality of what a kid posing as a black person really could, should or would suffer through. The ending is especially formulaic and predictable, or to also describe it, unrealistic. I'm not saying it's a dislikeable movie on any level, but it is a questionable one. To a degree, anyway. One scene that comes into mind is when Matt is trying to hide his "face" from his parents who are visiting. Predictable, but funny stuff. But not really necessary. I know this is a comedy, but just because it is, doesn't mean it shouldn't deal with serious issues.

*** out of ****

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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Controversy Aside, It Could Have Been A Better Film

6/10
Author: D_Burke from United States
9 September 2011

You can't talk about a movie like "Soul Man" without feeling your feet inevitably hitting a soap box. So let's get the film's controversy out of the way: Is it wrong for a white person like Mark Watson (C. Thomas Howell) to disguise himself as a black person? In most cases, yes. Is it wrong to do so to obtain a scholarship? In all cases, double yes. Does it make a bad idea for a movie? Not necessarily.

The problem with "Soul Man" is not so much its premise as much as its execution. You have a white college student, Mark, from L.A. who learns that he and his friend Gordon (Arye Gross) have been accepted into Harvard Law School. The only problem is that even though he comes from a well-to-do family, his father decides not to support him financially. Mark tries every way to pay for his tuition and living expenses, including applying for financial aid, for which he is immediately turned down. I'm not so sure if that would happen in real life, but then again, I haven't applied to law school. Plus, anyone can apply for student loans, right? Regardless, Mark eventually comes across Harvard's only viable full-ride scholarship he can find, which happens to be solely for African-American students. In a fraudulent and risky move, he decides to turn himself black. He does so by taking tanning pills that increase the melanin in his skin, and dons a Jheri curl.

There are two problems with this transformation: 1.) Howell does not look African-American at all when he darkens his skin. In fact, I thought he looked like an Indian-American with a really bad hair stylist. Yet, in this movie, no character seems to think for a second that this guy isn't black, not even Harvard Professor Banks (James Earl Jones), who seems way too educated to be fooled.

2.) Most importantly, you never actually see Mark Watson come to the conclusion that posing as a black man is a good idea. The film just suddenly jump cuts from his vain attempts to seek financial support to his racial transformation, all with no explanation whatsoever. I wanted to see him take those pills and at least get an idea of what was going through his head. Also, why did he decide on a Jheri curl as a haircut? I would imagine that a Jheri curl, which already requires an ozone-killing amount of hair spray as it is, would be more difficult to maintain than simply shaving his head. John Howard Griffin employed the latter hairstyle choice while doing research for the novel "Black Like Me".

I could go on about the character weaknesses of Mark Watson, such as the fact that he doesn't seem smart enough to mop the floors of Harvard Law School let alone be a student there, nor does he have the motivation. He made the dumb decision to attend Professor Banks' criminal law class simply because Professor Banks was "a brother". He doesn't seem to register how intimidating James Earl Jones is as a Harvard professor, whereas I got the impression immediately as Jones was taking attendance in his first scene.

It's not C. Thomas Howell's fault that the Mark Watson character is the way he is, although his career suffered because of it. It's just that Mark should have been developed more, and not just be made a carbon copy of a member of the Delta Tau Chi frat in "Animal House" (1978). If Arye Gross's character was made that way, that's fine, but making both characters inept really ruins the base of the story.

Otherwise, I actually liked the parts of the film where Mark begins to realize that racism is not something that just died after the 1960's. He does say at one point that, "This (the 1980's) is the Cosby decade! America loves black people!" Well, not so much. While racism is not as obvious as it was before the Civil Rights Movement, it's still alive and well even in liberal Massachusetts.

I liked how Howell gets fazed little by little over two white classmates who like telling racists jokes to one another. I also thought his time in jail with unruly white disgruntled baseball players was stinging enough. The basketball montage (featuring Ronald Reagan's son, Ron Reagan) was also very funny.

I thought most of the supporting actors were convincing. Rae Dawn Chong was charming as ever, although her career also fizzled after this movie for some reason. Leslie Nielsen was also good as Mr. Dunbar, a building superintendent who does not take kindly to his beautiful daughter's (Melora Hardin) attraction to black Mark. The scene when he envisions Mark as a watermelon-eating pimp who shouts "Whatchu lookin' at!?!" was biting, but funny.

The fact that all these characters, black or white, were fooled by Mark being a black man is still what contributed to this movie's lack of credibility. Apparently also, not everyone was laughing at this movie either. Spike Lee and Eddie Murphy publicly denounced it. Then again, though, Richard Pryor reportedly found it funny.

Films about characters who make bad choices are not necessarily bad choices for movie plots. This wasn't a bad idea for a movie, but it could have been stronger if vital pieces of exhibition were not skimmed over haphazardly. What results is a film that is not black or white, but too gray.

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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Soul Man Goes To College Of Hard Knocks

6/10
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
19 October 2008

When Soul Man first came out it got razzed terribly for joking about a sensitive topic. I think the critics didn't quite get the film, they thought it was a racist attack on minorities.

Set aside scholarships are private and what C. Thomas Howell does is attempt to defraud the givers of said scholarship by passing himself off as black. Picture if you will somebody like Fred Phelps endowing a scholarship to Bob Jones University, the only place I'm aware that would take his money, on someone that Phelps feels reflects his proper and God inspired outlook on the American scene.

But it would be legal because it's Phelps's money to do with as he wishes. Now the endowers of that scholarship to Harvard meant it for someone like Rae Dawn Chong. So when Howell grabs it because his parents decide to make him pay his own way and he's too lazy to do it or heaven forfend, go to another law school he is defrauding her.

That's the sum and substance of Soul Man. Of course in passing himself off as black, Howell makes a few unpleasant discoveries about himself and a lot of people around him. And of course there's that old Cupid thing with him and Chong.

James Earl Jones makes the most intimidating law professor this side of John Houseman. Arye Gross gets the role of best friend and confidante in Howell's scheme and Melora Hardin who now occasionally plays the ghost of Trudy Monk on Monk is the spoiled rich girl who gets back at her parents by sleeping with minorities.

Soul Man gets silly and a bit forced at times. But it's not deserving of all the knocks it's been given over the years.

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8 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

On the level of John Hughes comedies!

Author: Jhangir Khwaja from London, England
10 April 2002

I remember watching Soul Man about twelve years ago when it was first aired on TV. Crazy, hilarious, sarcastic, emotional; what the hell I could go on forever describing this film.

This is the only film besides "The Outsiders" that C. Thomas Howell played a dual role of himself and a black student impersona. Okay I can agree with some comments that movie began to over step it's bounderies with the way African American culture was dealt with, but at the smae time I felt that it was stabalized with the humour adding that extra touch rather than people taking it more "Politically correct" way.

James Earl Jones and Rae Dawn Chong both did fabulous jobs as there acting really help give their characters' some edge that made it somewhat convincing.

Overall a brilliant film. If you can try to avoid the fact that it might be cliched of dealing with racial differences in a light hearted manner. Remember this is a comedy and not something to take "SERIOUSLY".

Another quality film from the 80's to add to the hitlist.

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9 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

"obbbjection!"

8/10
Author: marcusenglish (englishmg@yahoo.com) from norwich, united kingdom
3 August 2001

"to what?"

"frankly, your tone of voice."

i watched soul man twice at the cinema when it came out; i loved it to bits.

i thought the movie was warm and funny and dealt with a difficult subject in an imaginative and sincere way.

i found c thomas very likeable and i thought his relationship with rae dawn chong and her young son was believable and natural. james earl jones was fantastic too.

my fave thing about the movie is ayre gross. i loved him in coupe de ville and on ellen and he's excellent here as mark's smart-alec best friend gordo. the scene where he has to defend mark in court is so funny.

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5 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Great entertainment with something to say

Author: Alan Llewellyn from Cumbria, Great Britain
13 August 2003

When I started to watch this film I thought, not another teen movie. That's not to say it wasn't funny because it was hilarious but then something happened in the film as it began to give a message of racism in American society in particular(and the world by inference). The premise that a white student could become black just by using tanning pills is so ridiculous but if you get over that funny leap in belief and you give this film your time you will be rewarded with a sentimental love story with a anti-racist message and what's more, the movie makes you think- what if I were black? Would I be treated like that just on the basis of the colour(or color as you Americans spell it) of my skin?

The main character Howell comes across as a bit of a j***k, pardon my language, at first but you see him mature with what he sees happening around him. His self importance disappears with every racist moment and we are left with not a broken man as maybe someone who had to put up with it all through their life (a Black person) but because he can go back to being seen as important in society (i.e. a white man) he is left enriched by the experience and an infinitely better person. The love angle is very well portrayed especially by two people who actually went on to get married after the movie in real life which just shows the chemistry between them on screen. The only thing after seeing this movie that I can see wrong with it is its competing ideas and themes- you are not sure what you have watched, was it a teen movie, love story, drama or anti-racist 'propaganda'. Personally as someone who likes all those types of movies I think it is the my greatest modern movie of all time. 10/10

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Taking serious, turning it funny

9/10
Author: Zoooma from Oakland, New Jersey
14 June 2014

This movie gets a bad rap but it's actually quite interesting in its portrayal stereotypes and racism. It's sad that it was made because there shouldn't be such stereotypes and racism in society. But the movie goes about having a laugh with it all while still showing the ignorance in people. C. Thomas Howell used to be able to act back then and he does a great job. There is fine acting all around particularly from James Earl Jones and Rae Dawn Chong. On the unfortunate side, Leslie Nielson was terribly underused and so out of character as a racist piece of crap. In the end, right prevails over wrong, we have a few laughs, and ponder the idiocy of racism.

6.1 / 10 stars

--Zoooma, a Kat Pirate Screener

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