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|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
dir Bille Woodruff
scr Kate Lanier, Norman Vance Jr
with Queen Latifah, Alicia Silverstone, Kevin Bacon, Djimon Hounsou, Paige Hurd, Alfre Woodard, Andie MacDowell, Mena Suvari, Keshia Knight Pulliam, Bryce Wilson, Golden Brooks, Della Reese
release US 30.Mar.05,
05/US MGM 1h47
Talk to the hand: Latifah and Bacon
See also: BARBERSHOP
While this Barbershop spin-off is rather clunky and unfunny, its cast has enough personality to make it surprisingly entertaining. If you can overlook some slightly offensive stereotyping and stick out an overlong running time.
After her husband's death, Gina (Latifah) moves to Atlanta with her daughter (Hurd) and gets a job with shi-shi stylist Jorge (Bacon), who treats everyone like scum. Eventually, there's an ego explosion and Gina's out on her own, buying a run-down beauty shop and building a loyal staff (black-wannabe Silverstone, earth-mother Woodward, hunky Wilson, spiky Brooks, party girl Pulliam) and customer base (MacDowell, Suvari, Reese). But her troubles with Jorge aren't quite over yet.
There are the bare bones of a strong comedy here, but the film feels like it was run through the Hollywood strainer, adding contrived plot points, cliched characters and a brightly professional sheen. At least the cast inject enough raw talent and charm to keep us watching. Latifah is relaxed and sparky, leading her lively ensemble effortlessly, while Hounsou and Wilson fill the sexy-but-talented male roles and Silverstone is the dumb white girl with a heart of gold. Everyone else is good too, but they're mostly just confirming every black stereotype imaginable, most glaringly Woodward's over-the-top motherland obsession (let's quote Maya Angelou again!). Amid all this goofiness, Bacon steals the film with his sourpuss Eurotrash routine. He's the only funny thing in the film--possibly because he's the only person who never smiles.
Basically, the film consists of a lot of beautician chatter and Jerry Springer attitude, offering bad advice for everyone else's problems. It's sassy and silly and corny, but rarely funny. And as it drags on we keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. Woodruff (Honey) directs the film like he has ADD--lurching from blues to rap, innercity grit to sappy romance, leaving story threads dangling everywhere while padding it out through unnecessary sequences that only delay the inevitable moment when the plot kicks in. It's not an awful film, but it could have been much better than this if the filmmakers had held onto its soul.
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