×

A Beautiful Soul

In what is probably the first-ever mashup of Charles Dickens and R&B, "A Beautiful Soul" stars gospel singer Deitrick Haddon as a bling-wielding, self-centered Scrooge whose wakeup call arrives via a bullet, and whose redemption involves a divine iPad (with an app for afterparties past, present and yet to come) by which he learns to change his ways.

With:
With: Deitrick Haddon, Lesley-Ann Brandt, Harry Lennix, Robert Ri'chard, Trevor Jackson, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Barry Floyd, Jeris Poindexter, Onyx Whitaker.

In what is probably the first-ever mashup of Charles Dickens and R&B, “A Beautiful Soul” stars gospel singer Deitrick Haddon as a bling-wielding, self-centered Scrooge whose wakeup call arrives via a bullet, and whose redemption involves a divine iPad (with an app for afterparties past, present and yet to come) by which he learns to change his ways. Although a natural for young, Christian-oriented auds, helmer Jeff Byrd’s meller is too undernourished and underpopulated to find much traction elsewhere, and strains to find a tone. Limited theatrical play will lead to a highly specialized afterlife.

It’s in a badly lit afterlife of his own that pop star Andre Stephens (Haddon) sees the error of his ways. At the top of his game, his music career and the Los Angeles food chain, Andre has abandoned God for mammon. Although he and his lifelong buddies Chris (Robert Ri’chard) and Terrance (Barry Floyd) met as young gospel singers, the decadent ‘Dre virtually has to be dragged by Chris to a local church, where the arrogant singer promptly tries to pick up the first comely woman he sees and disses both the pastor (Jeris Poindexter) and an aspiring young singer (Trevor Jackson) before beating a hasty retreat back to his penthouse.

When Andre’s bodyguard, Vincent (Onyx Whitaker), asks him for a loan to pay his ailing wife’s medical bills, and Andre turns him down, Vincent moves on to Plan B: a robbery that leads to a shootout and leaves Andre teetering between this world and the next.

Working from a screenplay by Haddon and Allison Elizabeth Brown, Byrd (“King’s Ransom”) doesn’t maintain a pace brisk enough to keep viewers from asking logic questions, especially pertaining to the robbery. There’s also a distinct lack of authenticity to the pic’s musical performance sequences: After an aerial shot of Los Angeles’ Staples Center, the camera moves inside, where Andre is preparing to hit the stage before what sounds like four people, chanting “Dre! Dre!” Byrd strives to create an illusion of mass crowds and pop hysteria, but his efforts fall considerably short of their aims.

Similarly less-than-convincing is the character of Andre, who comes off as cartoonishly self-centered and distinctly unlikable. On the page or onscreen, Haddon is unable to make the guy complex enough that one knows he not only needs redemption but deserves it. “A Beautiful Soul” wears its Christian message on it sleeve, sometimes to a fault: The guardian angel (Vanessa Bell Calloway) who walks Andre through heaven and preps him for his return to earth is wearing a crucifix. Any viewers hoping for a nondenominational hereafter are going to be disappointed.

Tech credits are mixed; sound is particularly uneven. The slackness of the storytelling has the effect of subjecting the low-budget pic’s supernatural elements to charm-killing scrutiny.

Popular on Variety

A Beautiful Soul

Production: A Tyscot ManHaddon Films and Releve Entertainment release and presentation in association with Mission Pictures Intl. of a Feather Films production. Produced by Holly Davis Carter, Kimberly Ogletree, Dominique Telson. Executive producers, Cindy Bond, Jeffrey W. Byrd, Deitrick Haddon, Cheyonne O'Shaughnessy, Bryant Scott, Leonard S. Scott. Co-producers, Danny Green, Noel Jones. Directed by Jeff Byrd. Screenplay, Allison Elizabeth Brown, Deitrick Haddon.

Crew: Camera (color), Tommy Maddox-Upshaw; editor, George Artope; music, Haddon; art director, Antoinette Loupe; sound, Umbe Adan; visual effects, Motion Sickness; associate producers, Twinkie Byrd, David J. Hutchinson, Ronnie J. Pitre; casting, Twinkie Byrd. Reviewed at AMC Empire 25, New York, May 5, 2012. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 92 MIN.

With: With: Deitrick Haddon, Lesley-Ann Brandt, Harry Lennix, Robert Ri'chard, Trevor Jackson, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Barry Floyd, Jeris Poindexter, Onyx Whitaker.

More Film

  • 'Elephant' Review: Less Majestic Than the

    'Elephant,' Narrated by Meghan Markle: Film Review

    Of all the members of the animal kingdom we think of as akin to humans — chimps, dolphins, whales, perhaps (if we’re being honest about it) our dogs — elephants may be the most movingly and preternaturally aware. Because you can see how intelligent they are. You see it in a chimp’s face, too, of [...]

  • Ken Shimura

    Ken Shimura Japanese Comedian Dies of Coronavirus Age 70

    Ken Shimura, a comedian who was a fixture on Japanese television for decades, died on Sunday evening from the coronavirus, the Japanese media reported Monday. He was 70, and immediately before his illness had been set for his first starring role in a feature film. Shimura entered a Tokyo hospital on March 20 with fever [...]

  • Gerard Schurmann, Film and TV Composer,

    Gerard Schurmann, Film and TV Composer, Dies at 96

    Gerard Schurmann, whose 1960s film scores included “The Bedford Incident” and “Dr. Syn, Alias the Scarecrow” but who also composed extensively for the concert hall, died March 24 at his home in the Hollywood Hills. The cause of death was not announced; he was 96. Schurmann’s death was announced by his music publisher, Novello & [...]

  • Rita And Tom Hanks Coronavirus

    Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson Return to U.S. After Coronavirus Diagnosis in Australia

    Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson are back home in the U.S. after they revealed they had contracted coronavirus and were quarantined in Australia. Hanks gave an update on Twitter Saturday morning, thanking everyone who had helped them in Australia and assuring people that they are still isolating themselves in the U.S. “Hey, folks…We’re home now [...]

  • Film Comment Magazine Goes on Hiatus

    Film Comment Magazine to Go on Hiatus as Film at Lincoln Center Lays Off Half of Staff

    Many companies are being financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, and the Film at Lincoln Center is the latest organization to have to lay off employees and pause some of their operations. On Friday, executive director Lesli Klainberg released a memo announcing that the center had to furlough or lay off about half of its [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content