REVIEW: "Beauty Shop"

DISCLAIMER: I was in a really, really lousy mood today when I saw this. I’d had a terrible day, and assumed that going to see what many had assured me was a terrible movie was the appropriately masochistic thing to do. Thusly, my opinion of the film may have been affected by my less-than-happy mindset, which might mean that “Beauty Shop” is either a bit better or a bit worse than I am about to report.

Okay, so this pretty damn pointless.

“Beauty Shop” is presented here as a “female” offshoot from “Barbershop,” a sitcom-pilot-as-movie comedy from two years back who’s well had already run noticeably dry in it’s own “official” sequel. The sole connections that hold this film to it’s predecessors is that Queen Latifah’s character of “Gina” was introduced in “Barbershop 2,” and that she keeps a briefly-glimpsed photo of her Barbershop crew pals taped to her mirror while on the job as a top stylist in a trendy Atlanta hair salon (we’re told she relocated here following her daughter’s acceptance to an exclusive music school.)

The Salon is owned by Jorge, an impossibly-evil jerk of a boss whom the film asks us to despise on the merits that he is (possibly) gay and speaks with a European accent. Jorge is played by Kevin Bacon, an actor too good for this movie doing work on very much the same lines. The male villians are usually the “best” characters in bad female-empowerment comedies, because unlike the heroic female leads the actor playing them is freed from the constraints of having to constantly embody a righteous avatar of feminism and social-justice. In any case, Jorge sets the plot in motion by finally “crossing the line” in his verbal abuse of Gina that motivates her to quit and strike out on her own.

Adhering stridently to the “every-other-movie-like-this” handbook, Gina buys a run-down beauty salon in the middle of Tha’ Hood, tries to turn it into a high-class joint, meets it’s staff of self-conciously colorful stylists and hires two comedy-caricatures of her own: A handsome street-tough ex-con with a gift for braids and a white country-gal (Alicia Silverstone, so THAT’S where she’s been!) who provides both opportunity for the film to wallow in uncomfortable (and unfunny) racial humor and for the other stylists to learn a powerful lesson about tolerance of others… unless, of course, those “others” happen to be possibly-gay, since the film indulges openly and unashamedly in mocking both Jorge’s apparent drama-queeniness and also the dubious sexuality of the “metrosexual” ex-con braiding expert.

Djimon Honsou is also on hand, playing an electrician who lives above the shop and turns out to be not only an eager love-interest for Gina but also a master pianist, thinker of deep-thoughts, good with kids, a great dancer and a Cyrano-level expert at old-school wooing. Eventually, someone will cast Honsou as something other than “Impossibly Perfect And Noble Man,” but until then let it still be held that he can play these parts better than almost anyone.

Not much really goes on in this film. People hang out in the beauty shop, talk, tell jokes, etc. There’s some business about a curiously overbearing City Inspector giving Gina’s shop too many fines (and GUESS who’s behind THAT), but primarily the film is concerned with coaxing laughs not so much by being witty, insightful or clever (because it’s not) but instead through an endless parade of cartoonish caricatures who’s “humor” seems based not on being funny but by being familiar in an “I know someone JUST LIKE THAT!!!” way to what “Beauty Shop’s” producers assume is their primary audience.

There’s really not much more to say about this. It’s just not good, plain and simple. I can offer that, while I was no great lover of “Barbershop,” the film could at least be admired for it’s lack of political correctness and it’s zeal for attacking (or, rather giving voice to characters who were attacking) the kind of sacrosanct PCism of popular culture that “Beauty Shop” holds up as a kind of ideal. Cedric the Entertainer’s angry loudmouth from the original film would likely be driven to rail for hours against the mindlessness of a film like this, and those hours would be much more interesting to watch than “Beauty Shop.”


One thought on “REVIEW: "Beauty Shop"

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