The film is thematically similar to What's Going On.
The film is thematically similar to What's Going On. Like Gaye's classic record, the story is told from the viewpoint of man who returns home after years away to see that the urban landscape has been transformed in some disturbing ways. The protagonist in What's Going On returned from Vietnam. In the film, Wallace has spent a couple of years on tour in Europe. A friend picks Wallace up from the train station, and informs him that the old neighborhood has changed. As if to drive home the fact that the block is different, the two encounter a group of kids sitting in front of a brownstone. Wallace asks the teens to freestyle and the youths come up with the kind of violence filled rhymes that have many old heads longing for the hip-hop of the late 1980s.
Wallace and his friend encounter a crack addict, a homeless man, a woman who had a crush on Wallace in elementary school, another woman Wallace would like to get know better right now and a former gold-digging girlfriend. The film addresses a variety of topics ranging from personal relationships to the state of hip hop and our young people, the community's obligation to those less fortunate, and the ongoing conflict between national security and civil liberties. Wallace was skillful in crafting the plot in a way that sets up the each of the songs. The film does have its shortcomings primarily when the effort to fit the plot to the songs results in issues raised not being fully addressed.
Still, if you compartmentalize the movie into a series of music videos, its pretty entertaining. You also need to remember that the Urban Soul: The Movie is partly a promotional tool for Urban Soul the CD. Wallace's music is the real star of this show, and that music is more than ready for its close up. Quality tracks include "So Cold," "Still a Man," "The Truth," "In The City," "Packages" "Metro Gotham Town," and "Road Less Taken," but there isn't a weak song on Urban Soul. Highly Recommended.
By Howard Dukes