There wasn't a moment during "Soul Food" that I didn't know exactly what was going to happen next. Perhaps that's because the narrator is nine or ten-year-old Ahmad (Brandon Hammond), and nine-year-olds tend to tell stories like they tell jokes, frequently botching the punch-line before they've gotten half-way through the setup.
This contrivance allows writer/director George Tillman to protect himself by claiming to have emulated his narrator by writing and directing like a juvenile. Nothing in this film is seen. It's all stated by young Ahmad. He has a whole mouthload of lines like "Part of the reason we were a tight family..." and "Look out, Big Mama, it's the serial killer with the axe about to jump out of the closet."
There actually is a Big Mama (Irma P. Hall) who holds the family together until she has a stroke, which serves to heighten the various feuds. The two older sisters, Teri (Vanessa L. Williams) and Maxine (Vivica A. Fox) don't get along at all. Teri is a successful lawyer and she makes sure everyone knows it. Maxine is a housewife and mother, who married Teri's former boyfriend, Kenny (Jeffrey D. Sams).
Tillman destroys the film by doing two things. First, he doesn't have a central character to focus on. Maybe there's Williams, but she's such a colossal bitch that you can only sit and hope that she's hit by a stray asteroid fragment or something. Secondly, he uses dialogue like most people use footnotes, explicitly explaining every little event without allowing the characters to demonstrate their personalities through action. Tillman might consider a career in dog training, since leading people around by the nose seems to be a considerable talent.
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