Calvin (Ice Cube) runs a struggling barbershop, inherited from his father. But with bills to pay and a baby on the way, he thinks the shop and its staff are just a burden and dreams of running a music studio. But when he sells it to loan shark Lester Wallace (Keith David), Calvin begins to see his staff in a different light. There’s old-timer Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer), college student Jimmy (Sean Patrick Thomas), Isaac (Troy Garity), ex-con Ricky (Michael Ealy), Dinka (Leonard Howze) and Terri (Eve), who each have their regular customers coming in for a cut and a chat. In the meantime JD (Anthony Anderson) and Billy (Lahmard J. Tate) are trying to hide an ATM machine, which they have stolen from the convenience store next door.
Review by Louise Keller:
The problem with Barbershop is that it tries too hard to be too many things. Instead of allowing us to enjoy the hilarity of people-watching in this neighbourhood corner shop and absorbing their endlessly diverse conversations, we are subjected to a silly sub plot that distracts without merit.
But colourful it all is, with a lively cast headed by the charismatic Ice Cube, whose Calvin discovers that being rich isn’t necessarily reflected by how many dollars are folded in your pocket. Set in Chicago’s ghetto with the barber shop modelled on the real thing, we quickly learn that this ‘black-man’s country club’ is where all types congregate, be-it for a trim, a shave or just a chat or listen to the rap music. And the barbers themselves are an assorted bunch – rather like a tin of liquorice allsorts. First and foremost, we get to know Calvin, who is a bit of a dreamer and has tried one get-rich-quick scheme after another. But he is also a romantic, and wants to give his girlfriend a luxurious summerhouse just like the one that belongs to Oprah.
And that’s the best thing about the film – the characters. It’s more about hair-chats than hair-cuts and there also seems to be more barbers than clients, with much animated interaction. The ensemble cast is diverse, well chosen and look as though they are having fun. Dinka, an over-weight Nigerian who writes poetry and has a confidence problem, is trying to sweet-talk the tough-talking Terri, who is ready to dump her two-timing boyfriend. Eddie, the opinionated old-timer with the boofy hair talks non-stop, even though he never seems to have a customer; and there’s plenty of conflict between snobbish know-all Jimmy and Isaac, who feels more black than his white skin colour. Then there are the customers and the regulars who come in, even when they don’t have enough money to pay.
But it’s the subplot with Anthony Anderson’s JD stealing an ATM machine that is the film’s weakest point, and the scenes showing him trying to transport this bulky item under a doona all the way to grandma’s house is totally ridiculous. Along the way he jams his hand, damages his foot, watches his colleague burn down a motel room, and Anderson milks it for all its worth. But his talents are misdirected in this sorry distraction, and even the music (whose funky rhythms are the best thing in the film) takes on farcical proportions. It ends up rather schmaltzy and contrived, and the film never maximises on its potential.
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CAST: Ice Cube, Eve, Sean Patrick Thomas, Sean Garity and Cedric the Entertainer, Keith David, Troy Garity, Michael Ealy, Leonard Howze, Anthony Anderson, Lahmard J. Tate
PRODUCER: Mark Brown, Robert Teitel, George Tillman Jr.
DIRECTOR: Tim Story
SCRIPT: Mark Brown, Don D. Scott, Marshall Todd (Story by Mark Brown)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Tom Priestley Jr.
EDITOR: John Carter
MUSIC: Terence Blanchard (songs by Ice Cube, Eve, Fabolous, Jay-Z, Ralph E. Tresvant)
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Roger G. Fortune
RUNNING TIME: 102 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Fox
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 22, 2003