The steaming platters of fried catfish, macaroni and cheese, sweet corn bread, and black-eyed peas that appear early and often in writer-director George Tillman Jr.’s sentimental family drama, Soul Food, should be listed in the credits as costars: In the tradition of such food-as-love films as Eat Drink Man Woman and Big Night, kitchen work is idealized as a form of communion in this indulgently nostalgic story — deep-fried with plot, script, and character cliches but honey glazed with goodwill — about how big Sunday dinners keep one African-American family together over the years. Irma P. Hall (A Family Thing) stars (in full mmm-mmmh! grandmama-ness) as the matriarch at whose Chicago house the clan gathers for weekly cholesterol-fests; when she becomes ill, and there’s no more smoked ham to go around, her daughters and their men fall apart with dubious alacrity. The attractive ensemble cast includes Vanessa L. Williams as the imperious eldest daughter (uptight bossiness suits Williams as a future career direction), Vivica A. Fox as the maternal middle sister, Nia Long as the youngest, and Clockers’ Mekhi Phifer as her new husband, trying to go straight after doing jail time. B-
Genre: Drama; Starring: Vivica A. Fox, Brandon Hammond, Irma P. Hall, Nia Long, Mekhi Phifer, Vanessa Williams, Michael Beach, Mekhi Phifer, Jeffrey D. Sams; Director: George Tillman, Jr.; Author: George Tillman, Jr.; Runtime (in minutes): 114; MPAA Rating: R; Distributor: 20th Century Fox Film Corporation
Posted October 3 1997 — 12:00 AM EDT
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