What's Better, 'Soul Men' Or 'Role Models'?

Writer Mark Jordan Legan takes us through the reviews for the comedy Soul Men, about two singing legends who agree to an on-stage reunion, the animated sequel Madagascar: Return 2 Africa and the Paul Rudd comedy Role Models about two screw-up friends sentenced to mentor kids.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

This is Day to Day from NPR News. I'm Madeleine Brand.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

I'm Alex Chadwick. OK, you've watched everything on the home screen all week. Your eyeballs are screaming for relief.

BRAND: Or maybe just some change. Well, you're in luck. Three different comedies are opening this weekend at the movies.

CHADWICK: And are the critics laughing? Here's Mark Jorgan Legan with Slate's Summary Judgment.

MARK JORGAN LEGAN: The late great Bernie Mac, who passed away in August, stars with Samuel L. Jackson in the road comedy "Soul Men." Once a popular singing duo that had a bad falling out, they now tried driving cross-country together to attend a special tribute concert at the legendary Apollo Theater in New York City.

(Soundbite of movie "Soul Men")

Mr. BERNIE MAC: (As Floyd Henderson) If we do this right, we can get a record deal.

Mr. SAMUEL L. JACKSON: (As Louis Hinds) I ain't tryin' to make no comeback.

Mr. MAC: (As Floyd Henderson) I guess you don't care about the 40 grand.

Mr. JACKSON: (As Louis Hinds) That ain't even enough. I got a lifestyle to maintain here.

Mr. MAC: (As Floyd Henderson) You got a lifestyle, man? You got a (unintelligible) full of dog food. I don't see no dog.

LEGAN: The critics are split about the movie, but almost all praise Bernie Mac and Sam Jackson. The Village Voice cheers, "Jackson and Mac carry the show. As swan songs go, 'Soul Man' is pretty sweet." And the Hollywood Reporter adds, "The film manages to succeed anyway, thanks to the entertaining performances by Mac and Jackson and its generous doses of raucous humor."

And hey, it wouldn't be a movie weekend without some kind of sequel. So here's "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa." Yes, all the lovable creatures from the first film are back. Only this time, they ended up stranded on the vast plains of Africa itself, where they meet some of their own kind for the very first time. Ben Stiller and Chris Rock returned to provide some of the vocal talent.

(Soundbite of movie "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa")

Mr. TOM MCGRATH: (As Skipper) Good landing, boys. Who says a penguin can't fly?

Mr. BEN STILLER: (As Alex) Hey, happy slappers, is there some reason to celebrate? Look at the plane.

Mr. MCGRATH: (As Skipper) We'll fix it.

Mr. STILLER: (As Alex) Fix it? How are you going to fix this?

Mr. MCGRATH: (As Skipper) Grit, spit and a whole lot of duct tape.

LEGAN: Overall, the nation's critics enjoyed "Madagascar 2." The Wall Street Journal crows, "good-natured, high-spirited, and perfectly enjoyable." Variety finds it "lively and quite funny," and the Austin Chronicle promises "young children will enjoy this piece of sweet cartoon candy."

And for those in the mood for an R-rated comedy, here's "Role Models." Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott star as two white-collar criminals who were offered a simple choice - jail or community service mentoring some troubled youth.

(Soundbite of movie "Role Models")

Mr. PAUL RUDD: (As Danny Donahue) Large black coffee.

Ms. NINA HELLMAN: (As Barista) Did you mean a venti?

Mr. RUDD: (As Danny Donahue) No, I mean large.

Ms. HELLMAN: (As Barista) Venti is large.

Mr. RUDD: (As Danny Donahue) No, venti is 20. Yeah. Large is large. In fact, tall is large, and grande is Spanish for large. Venti's the only one that doesn't mean large. It's also the only one that's Italian. Congratulations, you're stupid in three languages.

LEGAN: If you're looking for a good laugh, this movie might be the one for you. "Killer funny," shouts Rolling Stone. USA Today applauds, "a surprisingly clever comedy." And the Chicago Sun Times calls "Role Models" the "kind of movie you don't see every day, a comedy that is funny." And, listen, I can totally relate to the topic of this film. It's not easy being the role model, I know. Many young wanna-be radio personalities constantly write to me about my exciting life, and I always tell them National Public Radio isn't all glamorous party, sex, drugs and stretch limos. In fact, it's more like tense staff meetings, sexual harassment seminars, Echinacea and pre-owned Volvos. They usually stop writing after that.

BRAND: Mark Jorgan Legan is my hero. He's a writer living in Los Angeles.

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