Welcome back to 1 out of 5 – Would Recommend, where Hollywood can’t hide its past. This week, we’re bringing the month of megacheese 80’s studio flicks to a close with 1986’s Soul Man.
What’s The Plot?
When a rich white student (C. Thomas Howell) gets cut off financially by his parents just after getting into Harvard Law School, he concocts a plan to use tanning pills to pose as an African-American to take advantage of a full ride scholarship. He spends his first semester of law school learning why that was a crappy thing to do.
Wait…Run That By Us Again
Yeah, this movie is basically Rachel Dolezal’s story thirty years before she gained national infamy.
Five Reasons to See It
- It gave the universe a pretty badass cover of Soul Man by Sam Moore (50% of the duo behind the original song and a musical guest in Blue Brothers 2000) and Lou Reed.
- Leslie Nielsen and James Earl Jones are in the supporting cast. These guys are so above this flick that they can see its curvature, but they do a fine job.
- The movie’s commentary on racism is, if you can get past the cringe worthy premise, as valid today as it was in 1986. Which is, typed out like that, a little depressing actually.
- Tim Robbins was set to star, but had to drop out when filming on Howard The Duck ran long. This is the first and last time it “lucky break” and “appeared in the Howard The Duck movie” will ever appear in the same thought, and your brain will rebel at it.
- “She told me they have support for people whose parents are poor, but not for those whose parents are assholes.” – Still true.
Ok, the point of the movie – that there’s an undertone of inequality in our society that you simply can’t truly understand unless you’ve lived it – is actually pretty well made. The moral of the film is still relevant today, a lot of the jokes still work, and the acting is actually pretty high quality. The hero is operating under as many stereotypes about African Americans as the antagonists are at the outset of the film, and his realizing it and becoming a better person makes this movie somewhat worth seeing. That said…it’s really painful to watch a white dude in black face try to relate via stereotypes in that first act.
NEXT WEEK: In honor of Thanksgiving, I explain one of my holiday traditions: a Turkey Day Marathon!