After an encounter with a faulty airline toilet, Dakwon (Kevin Hart) sues the offending airline, and wins $100 million for his pain and suffering. Flush with cash, Dakwon decides to start his own airline, called NWA. With a purple exterior, 84-inch rims, hydraulics, and spinners, the first flight of the new airline is about to take off. But with a pilot who can't fly (Snoop Dogg), white passengers who are clearly out of their element (Tom Arnold), crazy security officers (Mo'Nique), and a crew too wrapped up in their own problems (Gary Anthony Williams, Sofia Vergara, and Angell Conwell) to deal with passengers, Dakwon's dreams might crash before they even get off the ground.
There's a whole lot of head-slapping material to be found in the new comedy, "Soul Plane" (IMDb listing). Working off of the comedic outline that the ZAZ team set up in "Airplane!," "Soul Plane" might not have the speed and accuracy of that comedy classic, but it shares an amusing lunacy and willingness to get very silly to make a laugh happen. Outside of Ice Cube's "Friday" trilogy, you rarely meet a theatrically released urban film up for that challenge.
The title alone should speak miles about personal interest in this film, but let me pass along some more stats: NWA's concourse is named X (after Malcolm). It comes complete with a basketball court, 99 cent store, and the terminal restaurant is Roscoe's Chicken n' Waffles. The plane is equipped with a dance club and a studio for making hip-hop music videos (Lil' Jon cameos), the safety video music is a parody of Destiny Child's song "Survivor," the bathroom is equipped with a fold-out table for wannabe mile-high clubbers, and the choice of drink for coach class is malt liquor. And the white characters carry the last name "Honky."
Still with me? "Soul Plane" might not be for everyone, but it does provide laughs by sheer strength of will. First time director Jessy Terrero hasn't a clue how to arrange scenes or when to cut away from a joke that clearly isn't working (John Witherspoon, having a rare off day), but his scattershot approach to "Soul Plane" hits more than it misses, and I enjoyed his enthusiasm for the central concept, as well as his bravery for including two aA-Qaida jokes. Albeit unfunny ones, but it takes guts!
"Soul Plane" eventually falls back to Earth when Terrero decides to put some heart into the proceedings with a little side romantic history between Dakwon and a passenger (the radiant K.D. Aubert, "Friday After Next"). In a comedy this broad, laughs should be the only thing on Terrero's mind. Taking time away from the jokes depletes the energy and leaves the picture about 20 minutes too long. Still, as occasionally pedestrian and borderline offensive as "Soul Plane" is, it does have a solid laugh count, unlike any real life airline in business today.
Filmfodder Grade: B-