Soul Man (1986) - Rotten Tomatoes

Soul Man (1986)



Critic Consensus: Critics had a whole lot less than a truckload of good loving for this woefully misguided take on race in '80s America.

Movie Info

This comedy presents the story of a white college student who desperately wants to enroll in the Harvard Law School, but since his wealthy father refuses to help him pay the $54,000 he needs, so he begins taking tanning pills to darken his skin so he will be eligible to win the Bouchard Fellowship which is only awarded to African-American students. He wins it and goes despite the fact that he beats out a hard-working African American mother for the honor. While on campus, the young fellow learns a lot about racism and bigotry. He also falls in love with the woman he took the scholarship from.

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C. Thomas Howell
as Mark Watson
Rae Dawn Chong
as Sarah Walker
Arye Gross
as Gordon Bloomfield
James Earl Jones
as Prof. Banks
Melora Hardin
as Whitney Dunbar
Leslie Nielsen
as Mr. Dunbar
James B. Sikking
as Bill Watson
Max Wright
as Dr. Aronson
Jeff Altman
as Ray McGrady
Julia Louis-Dreyfus
as Lisa Stinson
Betty Cole
as Mrs. Walker
M.C. Gainey
as Man in Cell
Donald Hotton
as Mr. Wicher
Linda Hoy
as Mrs. Sherwood
Paul F. O'Brien
as Officer Schkolnick
Amy Stock-Poynton
as Girl in Bed
Ann Walker
as Mrs. Dunbar
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Critic Reviews for Soul Man

All Critics (23) | Top Critics (6)

The comedy was out of date before they even made this, no matter how much they try and twist the ending.

June 7, 2006 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…

In the end, however, it's let down by one easy laugh too many.

February 9, 2006 | Full Review…
Top Critic

It's a blithe, silly, good-natured movie and, of its kind, quite an enjoyable one.

May 20, 2003 | Rating: 3/5

The pity is, it isn't even outrageous.

January 1, 2000 | Full Review…

Of course, simply everyone is completely bamboozled by our hero's disguise, even though he now looks like a Ken doll with liver disease.

January 1, 2000 | Full Review…

This is a genuinely interesting idea, filled with dramatic possibilities, but the movie approaches it on the level of a dim-witted sit-com.

January 1, 2000 | Rating: 1/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Soul Man

Yeah, it's bad, and kind of racist, but I think it's probably well intentioned, just done badly. It has that bad 80's kind of appeal. Wanted to hate it, but just couldn't.

Nicki Marie
Nicki Marie

Super Reviewer


"Soul Man" is an embarrassing movie that somehow manages to be simultaneously intentionally and unintentionally racist. C. Thomas Howell plays a pampered rich kid whose parents cut him off just as he's been accepted to Harvard law school. He takes an overdose of "tanning" pills and voila! he's african american! Add to that a cheap afro wig, and he's gets a fully paid scholarship reserved for african american students. C. Thomas really doesn't look ethnic at all though, he just looks like a guy in blackface. Not alot of laughs in this movie, either intentional or post-ironic, it's just sort of average (although the sight of 90 lb C. Thomas punching out two guys who go FLYING across the room is pretty entertaining- what was it about punching a guy in the 80s that caused him to go flying 20 feet across a building?). A completely pedestrian waste of time.

Devon Bott
Devon Bott

Super Reviewer



Leigh Ryan
Leigh Ryan

Super Reviewer

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