Barbershop (2002) / Comedy-Drama
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for language, sexual content, and brief drug references
Running Time: 102 min.
Cast: Ice Cube, Cedric the Entertainer, Eve, Sean Patrick Thomas, Troy Garity, Anthony Anderson, Keith David, DeRay Davis
Director: Tim Story
Screenplay: Mark Brown, Don D. Scott, Marshall Todd
In the 70s, the "day in the life of..." occupation movies were more the norm as far as comedies went, with an ensemble cast of colorful characters, and not much plot other than to watch them all interact and laugh at the results. Car Wash may be the quintessential example of this kind of film, and with a mostly African-American cast, its influence is still felt today among many aspiring Black filmmakers. 2001 saw The Wash cover similar territory, but there wasn't any inspiration or originality to come close to the original. Now in 2002, the formula repeats itself, only this time the results are much more favorable. Barbershop is Car Wash resurrected, and what it lacks in freshness it more than makes up with good characters and a little bit of heart.
Barbershop's title is almost self explanatory. This is a "day in the life of" a small barbershop located in the South side of Chicago, servicing the African-American community there for the last 40 years. Ice Cube (Ghosts of Mars, Three Kings) plays the owner, Calvin, who has spent the last two years trying to keep the business afloat with a lack of success, to a large extent due to some risky side ventures he undertook in trying to make a quick buck. Although he inherited the shop from his father, he never saw it as anything special, so when he faces the prospect on the bank foreclosing on it due to unpaid bills, he sells the place to a local loan-shark. Among the eclectic crew of barbers and patrons, Calvin sees that the barbershop is more than a place to get a haircut for the community, but the greedy loan shark doesn't want to give the place back.
Barbershop is greatly aided by a fine cast of very different actors, all likable and perfectly cast in their respective roles. The cast includes a Laurel-and-Hardy-ish couple of thieves who steal a seemingly indestructible cash machine, an ex-con, an educated barber, an older demagogic historian, a woman with man troubles, and many others with their own small side stories and quirky personalities. It's a joy to watch them interact with each other, and there's quite a lot of memorable dialogue and even food for thought tossed about through Mark Brown's (The Seat Filler, How to Be a Player) well-conceived story.
Barbershop is lighthearted but endearing entertainment that offers a few chuckles, a few smiles, and a few musing chin-rubs. It may lack for freshness, but it does hold your interest, and even if the characters might be a bit stereotypical at first, they do mature as the film progresses thanks to the quality writing and acting. The South side of Chicago may not necessarily be a place most would want to live, but for 90+ minutes, Barbershop makes it a nice place to visit.
-- Followed by Barbershop 2: Back in Business (2004) and a spin-off, Beauty Shop (2005)
©2002 Vince Leo