It seems that the place to meet strange and kooky characters is at an all black barbershop. The proof of this is Coming To America for example. Also the Ice Cube rule of thumb is working again - star in a film that covers one day only (Trespass, Friday and Next Friday). Barbershop is the modern equivalent of disco funky movie Car Wash or even Empire Records - soundtrack driven movies focussing on location.
With Barbershop the formula is similar to Friday and its sequels - plot isn't all that important as the characters make up for the lack of one regardless. Set in modern day urban Chicago, Calvin (Ice Cube) has problems; his hoping to turn his basement into a recording studio (without much success) and is also trying to support a pregnant girlfriend. The only thing that he has got is a barbershop inherited two years earlier from his father. Calvin sees no future in the barbershop as his father spend four decades cutting hair, yet died without making any money. With his failed businesses putting him more and more into debt, he finally succumbs to local hoodlum boss, Lester Wallace's (Keith David) offer to buy the shop.
Unfortunately, Wallace immediately decides that he's going to change the shop into a gentleman's club having just promised Calvin that the shop will always have the barbershop sign hanging outside. With even more debt than ever before, Calvin slowly realises that the shop isn't just a place of business, it a centre of the community and he also realises why his father never made any money - he was doing a service to the local area, as the shop doubled for a meeting place and that a barber is seen as someone who's much more than a hair cutter.
With less than a few hours to pay back Mr Wallace (and the extortionate interest charges), Calvin is running out of ideas and is feeling the pressure. Can he save his father shop and redeem himself in the community before its too late?
Along side the issues that Calvin has to deal with, the other characters that either work at, hang out or just past through the barbershop include Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer) who's an aging barber, and a historian with old school philosophies who sees the shop as a black, country club. Also there's Terri (Eve) whose stuck with an egotistical boyfriend, yet is secretly the object of infatuation for fellow barber and West African immigrant Dinka (Leonard Earl Howze). The shop is also a second home to Jimmy (Sean Patrick Thomas) a snobbish college educated black man with a grudge against Isaac (Troy Garity) who's a white guy trying too hard to be black and Ricky (Michael Ealy) a two time felon whose trying to go straight. Finally, there are the two local idiot criminal 'masterminds' without a brain cell between them, Billy (Lahmard Tate) and JD (Anthony Anderson) who spend the film desperately trying to break into an cash machine that they stole.
Its these other characters that make the film and the interaction between them. There are some surprisingly touching moments in a film that has many clichés characters such as corner shop owner owner Jay (Olumiji Olawumi) who is first seen as another movie caricature Indian store owner, but when we return to the character the film shows us much more depth than expected.
Performance wise, there are some really good turn outs, but as each character has about the same screen time there isn't any one that really stands out. The humour is much like Friday and there is even some slap stick in the for of the two 'Laurel and Hardy' type cash machine thieves dragging it around town trying to pry it open.
There has been some controversy regarding a scene where Eddie cusses down Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, which has kicked off some sort of issue in the US, but the rest of the world will probably not care too much.
Barbershop is directed by Tim Story with some real warmth. The eclectic cast of barbers bring a presence to the film that makes it tower over similar 'day-in-the-life-of' films such as as the awful The Wash (same film set in a car wash starring Dr Dre and Snoop Doggy Dog). The characters appear to be stereotypical at first but mature as the film progresses, thanks mainly to the writing and acting.
Despite the familiar plot and fairly predictable story, the Barbershop is a place of warmth, likable characters and snappy conversation. It makes you want to visit Calvin's shop again and with a sequel in the pipe line already it looks like we can return sometime soon.
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