Barbershop

Movie Review by Neil Ryan

Starring: Ice Cube, Cedric the Entertainer, Eve, Sean Patrick Thomas, Troy Garity
Director: Tim Story

If you have seen any of the films that comprise the FRIDAY trilogy then you will know what to expect from BARBERSHOP; it hails from the same production company (owned by Ice Cube who also stars in all four films), and apes the structure of its predecessors by tracing events that occur during the course of a single day. However, where BARBERSHOP shows more ambition than the FRIDAY franchise, is in its use of an ensemble cast that share equal screen time – a wise decision given that the central character of Calvin is the same bland two-dimensional every day man that Ice Cube has sleepwalked through in the past.

Located in the south side of Chicago, Calvin’s barbershop is a family business that has passed down from father to son to grandson (Calvin). It struggles to survive financially, a situation not helped by the fact that haircuts are a secondary concern for most of the shop’s habitues. The shop’s primary function seems to be as a focal point for the local community to assemble and let off steam, air their opinions, play checkers, sell their wares, or just watch the world go by.

On the day that we drop by the main focus for Calvin is the search for a way out of his financial dire straits and the solution he opts for is to sell out to a local loan shark who the audience can tell is dodgy because he dresses like he’s a guest at Huggy Bear’s wedding. Various other stories intertwine, mostly involving Calvin’s employees squaring up to each other, and some ham fisted attempts at slapstick by a pair of inept thieves. And, naturally, everything resolves itself in very succinct, and highly unlikely, fashion.

BARBERSHOP clearly owes a huge debt to 1970’s forerunner CARWASH in style, structure, and characterisation, and makes for similarly enjoyable fare. The dialogue of the shop floor is amusing but all too often lapses into the cliches of the Afro-American pop culture stereotype: i.e. women’s bootys, and who is mos’ fo’ real. This laziness is made more noticeable by the occasional bold forays into social critique when respected black figureheads and the attitudes of the Afro-American working class are both treated to a healthy lambasting. Not exactly the full-on rage of a young Spike Lee but nonetheless pleasantly surprising in such box-office friendly product.

Lightweight, entertaining and undemanding.

3 out of 6 stars

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