Soul Man with C. Thomas Howell. How'd this movie make it out the gate?

Soul Man was on CC this morning. This is the first time I have watched this thing since I was really young and it amazes me that this thing was ever made, even 20 years ago.

For those that haven’t seen this gem, you have white rich kid (CTH) who gets accepted to Harvard. His dad says that he won’t pay for it and CTH is trying to figure out how to pay his way thru Harvard (which, in this movie is only $10K a year tutition, to give you an idea of the era this was made in). Well, instead of getting a job he trys for some scholarships. One inparticular is a minority scholarship. He is white, but that won’t stop CTH!

CTH decides to take a whole bunch of tanning pills to make himself black. No shit. Tanning pills. A white guy taking tanning pills will make him black. Then he Jeri Curls his hair to give it that black man afro sheen. All this so he can take the minority scholarship.

Then the movie throws in every single sterotype you could think of regarding black people and white people. The white people are the whitest you will ever see. The black people are the blackest. Theres a great scene where a group of white guys fights over CTH because they want him on their basketball team because he is black and must be good at BBall. Well, since he is white he ends up sucking and hijinks ensue.

Anyway, the whole movie is like this. This must have been the most offensive and fucked up movie of its time. Folloed closely by that one movie with Denzel Washington and that guy from Just shoot Me where DW finds out his dad is the guy from JSM. Funny stuff.

If you haven’t seen Soul Man yet and wanna see just how far movies have come in the last 20 years you should rent this. Although this movie with Queen Latifah and Steve Martin looks like a giant set back.

Soul Man was a flop. IMDB says it grossed $27.82 million.

Compare that with another minor 1986 film, Short Circuit, which grossed $40.697 million, or the top film of 1986, Top Gun, which grossed $176.781 million.

I did see it in 1986, and I found it just as offensive then.

I remember seeing it when I was around ten. It was stupid to me then, its even more stupid now. Who the hell ever thought it was a good idea? I think hollywood studios should hire children as failsafes for these kinds of situations. If a random eight year old think the premise of your comedy is idiotic, don’t make it! Maybe we could have averted the disaster that was Kangaroo Jack this way.

Sounds like a really bad movie.

The ‘tanning pills’, however’ aren’t totally implausible. Take a look at the book Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin. A white guy darkens his skin with drugs and goes travelling through the southern US in 1959. It’s much better than the movie sounds to be.

I saw Soul Man when it came out. I was only eight or nine years old. I’ve seen it maybe twice since then.

It’s a stupid film but offensive? I don’t know. It didn’t bother me. The most annoying thing about the movie is that the guy didn’t look black in the LEAST and yet people were acting like he was the epitome of African Mandigo. I kept waiting for Rae Dawn Chong to snatch that wig off of his head and scream, “Who the hell are you trying to fool!” Plus, it would have been nice if Rae Dawn Chong’s character had just been a normal, down-on-her-luck law student, not all that AND a single parent of an eight-year-old. They obviously just added that bit of maudlin to make the contrast between white and black more noticeable, but it was over the top IMHO.


If I remember correctly, Griffin didn’t use “tanning pills” but rather some other prescription-strength drug under the care of a dermatologist.

And even then, the drugs weren’t enough for the desired effect, and he had to use some kind of stain to change his skin to the right color.

And he shaved his head, because his hair didn’t have a convincing nappiness.

Slight hijack: Circa 1995, a University of Maryland student tried to duplicate Griffin’s gig by darkening himself pharmaceutically and “passing” for black. He took so much crap from cops, security guards and the doorman of his own building that he gave up after one day.

As for Soul Man, I guess they thought they were making an honest effort at a comedy about race relatons, a worthwhile goal. This one happned to blow. So did Bringing Down the House, which I happened to see lat night. So did Bulworth, which has a lot of fans. In fact, the most successful, least heavy-handed show of this sort I can recall is the Seinfeld episode where Elaine thought she was dating a black guy, who thought he was dating a Latina.

Agreed, Fiver, it wasn’t tanning pills. I didn’t recall that he used stain as well. It was a long time ago that I read it.

That movie was “Carbon Copy”.