There's another obstacle: Hinds won't fly. (Wouldn't Henderson already be aware of that quirk?) So the two antagonists must endure a cross-country odyssey in Henderson's mint Cadillac Eldorado convertible. The uneasy riders scratch and claw at each other the entire journey.
It's a promising premise, but the plot grows increasingly feeble with each passing minute. The film bogs down completely in a sentimental midsection when the men invite a young lady (Sharon Leal of Dreamgirls) to travel with them.
The score is tasty with R&B classics from Earth Wind & Fire, McFadden & Whitehead, and others. But the onstage duets of Mac and Jackson (for some reason, director Malcolm Lee elected to use their real voices) are grating.
Soul Men's timeline doesn't work; Henderson's arthritic hip magically disappears; and the skin scenes are Borat raunchy.
Coincidentally, Borat's Ken Davitian has a cameo, as does soul star Isaac Hayes, who eerily passed away the day after Mac died this summer.
So why is this film worth seeing? Because it's an ideal showcase for Mac's peerless comic chops. Though he looks sickly and drawn on the screen, Mac pulled an energetic, often-inspired performance out of himself.
Jackson gets by mostly on bluster, but that doesn't matter because he serves mostly as a foil to Mac's popeyed shake-and-bake antics.
Both of them are undone by a cliched, feel-good climax during which the duo have to be redeemed from their respective character flaws.
If you can sit through that, stick around for the closing credits, because they include a sweet eulogy to Mac's raucous genius.
Soul Men **1/2 (out of four stars)
Directed by Malcolm Lee. With Bernie Mac, Samuel L. Jackson and Sharon Leal. Distributed by MGM.
Running time: 1 hour, 43 mins.
Parent's guide: R (sex, nudity, pervasive language)
Playing at: area theaters
Contact staff writer David Hiltbrand
at dhiltbrand@ phillynews.com or 215-854-4552. Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/daveondemand.