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Overall Rating
2.43

Awesome: 13.33%
Worth A Look: 3.33%
Average: 3.33%
Pretty Bad73.33%
Total Crap: 6.67%

3 reviews, 12 user ratings


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Beauty Shop
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Makes 'Barbershop 2' seem like 'Barbershop'"
2 stars

The first “Barbershop” film was a sly charmer of a comedy that pleasantly surprised audiences with by taking the standard day-on-the-job format popularized in such efforts as “Car Wash” and reinvigorated it with an effective blend of broad comedy, subtle social commentary and, in the guise of the character played by Cedric the Entertainer, a cheerful willingness to lower any and all sacred cows into the nearest meat grinder in an effort to inspire viewers to think for themselves. The sequel, “Barbershop 2: Back in Business,” lacked the spontaneity of the original and while it contained a couple of good laughs, it spent more time trying to replicate the formula of the first film instead looking for new inspiration. “Beauty Shop,” a spin-off of the series, tries to shake things up with a change of locale (Atlanta instead of Chicago) and a female-centered cast but those turn out to be the only real differences on hand–this is nothing more than an attempt to extend the series in an effort to bring in a maximum amount of box-office dollars with minimum effort. If the first film was like a trip to your friendly neighborhood barbershop of yore–where everyone knows your name and drags you into passionate debates the moment that you set foot inside–this film is more like a trip to Supercuts, where things are done quickly and efficiently, but the only genuine moment of human interaction comes when they collect your money.

The film stars Queen Latifah as Gina, a character who was first seen in “Barbershop 2,” where she was tossed into a couple of scenes solely to set up this continuation. Here, she and her daughter Vanessa (Paige Hurd) have relocated to Atlanta, where the child goes to a fancy arts school and Gina slaves away in a hoity-toity hair salon run by evil Eurotrash Jorge (Kevin Bacon, deploying an accent as fake as his hair). Before long, Gina, who is the unheralded star of the shop, quits and decides to open up her own place.

She purchases a run-down salon and, with the help of some of the store’s old stylists (including Alfre Woodard) and Lynn (Alicia Silverstone, who seems to have purchased her Southern accent from the same place where Bacon got his Europudding), a former shampoo girl with styling skills, tries to make a go of it. However, with the appearance of some high-maintenance clients–including neglected housewife Andie MacDowell–a hunky, seemingly sexually ambiguous male hairdresser (Bryce Wilson) and the even-hunkier upstairs electrician (Djimon Hounsou), the shop soon becomes the hottest new place in town. Of course, this will not stand with Jorge and he pulls a number of dirty tricks in order to put Gina out of business for good. I’m sure that the resolution of the plot will come as a surprise to few, although I was shocked that the allegedly cunning Jorge would conduct his nefarious business not only personally, but in broad daylight in public. Perhaps this is why they moved the locale to Atlanta–in Chicago, there are bagmen, alleys and smoke-filled rooms put on Earth just for those purposes.

There are plenty of other subplots running through “Beauty Shop” as well. Gina has a sister (Keisha Knight Pulliam) who seems headed down the hoochie-mama highway and only her big sis can possibly straighten her out. Gina also has apparently designed her own magical hair conditioner (dubbed “hair crack”) that one customer, a rich Paris Hilton-wannabe (Mena Suvari, eventually sporting breasts as fake as Kevin Bacon’s accent), offers to send to a cosmetics company. There is the budding romance between Gina and the upstair electrician, who also just happens to be a gifted foreign-born musical prodigy to boot. (While I am sure that Djimon Hounsou is thrilled to no longer be playing slave roles, perhaps he is getting equally tired, after this and “In America,” of playing the artistically-inclined upstairs foreigner who unhesitatingly helps the main characters with all of their personal problems at the drop of a hat.) Finally, there is the case of Lynn, who, as the token white girl in the shop, inspires no small amount of resentment from many of her co-workers for what they perceive as her half-hearted attempts to act more “black.” This particular strand has the most inexplicable wrap-up; after shaking her hinder on the dance floor, she immediately turns the head of the male hairdresser and they are soon dry-humping on the dance floor. I don’t have trouble buying that–what I do have trouble with is that all of the other black women in the store, who have all been angling for the guy themselves, are perfectly content with this and wind up accepting her as one of them instead of being driven to even greater heights of anger, which probably would have been a little more realistic.

This is a lot of plot to cover and it serves as a tip-off that there was never really a strong throughline for “Beauty Shop” in the first place. The original “Barbershop” didn’t have much of a plot, but it didn’t need one–it relied more on the byplay between its cast of fresh and funny character. Here, all the people on display seem to exist only because similar people showed up in that earlier film; the token male refers to the token female played by Eve, the Silverstone character is a match for the token white guy played by Troy Garity, Cedric the Entertainer’s wild-card is dealt again in the form of Woodard and Gina, of course, is meant to remind us of the strong center portrayed by Ice Cube. They have the types down but director Billie Woodruff in unable to capture any of the undeniable chemistry that the original group had. Then again, part of that may be the result of a screenplay in which much is said but little of it is at all memorable; while I can still fondly recall several moments of verbal jousting in the original, the only line of dialogue here that I can remember is when Gina’s daughter tells off a local punk, whose upcoming “music video” seems to be merely an excuse to videotape women’s hinders, with “I don’t eat donuts with boys who exploit women!”

Another difference between this film and “Barbershop” is that while the earlier film essentially kept whites out of the picture entirely and kept its focus solely on the local community while still dealing with universal subjects and truths, “Beauty Shop” trots in any number of dopey whites in order to remind audiences just how essentially lame the pigment-challenged truly are. Of course, those in the film who are willing to accept black culture into their hearts–such as Silverstone’s sisterhood-by-proxy and MacDowell’s sudden taste for collard greens–are deemed to be socially acceptable. Those who don’t–such as the characters played by Suvari and Bacon–are held up for scorn and ridicule and when one of them is violently assaulted in the end, it is all considered fun and games because . . . well, because they are just dopey white people. At another point, the Bacon character uses the word “moniker” while talking to our heroine, and she takes it as a racial taunt–of course, the joke is on him for using such high-brow language instead of on her for a.) having apparently never heard a word that is not that uncommon and b.) having the knee-jerk reaction that it must somehow be racist. Mind you, I’m not claiming to have been offended by such material–“bored” is more the word I am looking for–but it seems to have been included simply to score some cheap laughs from what “Variety” likes to refer to as the “urban” audience. For them, such bits may score some easy giggles but after the riskier and funnier material seen in “Barbershop,” they come off as about as complex and witty as a fart joke.

Watching “Beauty Shop” is like seeing “The Odd Couple” with an all-female cast; the gender switch provides a few minutes of novelty but it soon becomes apparent that it is merely an excuse to rehash the same stuff viewers have already seen and heard before without throwing anything fundamentally unique into the mix. It isn’t as much awful as it is fundamentally unnecessary; this is a shame because, as the success of “Diary of a Mad Black Woman” suggests, there is an audience out there for black female-driven films that aren’t “Catwoman.” I suspect that this one will make quite a bit of money as well from that generally underserved demographic. That could well turn out to be the best thing about “Beauty Shop”–it may inspire some filmmaker to think that if something this dull and innocuous can succeed, one made with a little more creativity and intelligence could go through the roof.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=11804&reviewer=389
originally posted: 03/31/05 02:24:39
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User Comments

2/02/14 Monday Morning OK on some levels, really annoying on others. Mostly from characters trying to "act black." 2 stars
1/27/09 PAUL SHORTT HAS THE STINK OF A BAD PERM ALL OVER IT 1 stars
1/12/09 Gloria Purdy Liked the movie but wonder who plays the radio D.J. 5 stars
8/05/06 Stanley Thai This is just a feel good funny film. No harm done. 4 stars
3/12/06 Chris Wilbik Was pretty disappointing to see Queen Latifah in a movie like this. 2 stars
2/17/06 JM Synth Sad Stuff. These People used to be stars! 2 stars
10/11/05 Tom Burns Not too bad, but not that funny either. 3 stars
9/06/05 Danny I'm a fan of Queen Latifah, but this wasn't EVEN funny. Disappointing. 2 stars
4/11/05 ye that movie was funny! what are yall talking about?! 5 stars
4/03/05 MJM103171 I enjoyed it thoroughly 5 stars
4/02/05 gray suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuked 1 stars
3/28/05 David Lawson saw a press screening, funny as hell! I loved it! 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  30-Mar-2005 (PG-13)
  DVD: 23-Aug-2005

UK
  N/A

Australia
  02-Jun-2005




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