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Barbershop (PG-13)

Official Site
Director: Tim Story
Producers: Robert Teitel & George Tillman, Jr.
Written by: Mark Brown, Don D. Scott, Marshall Todd
Cast: Ice Cube, Cedric the Entertainer, Eve, Sean Patrick Thomas, Troy Garity, Anthony Anderson, Michael Ealy, Leonard Howze, Jazsmin Lewis

Rating: out of 5

In Barbershop, Ice Cube plays Calvin Palmer, the owner of an African-American barbershop in South Side Chicago. In the profession more out of obligation to his dead father (who owned the place originally) than out of any actual desire to cut hair, Calvinís feeling the tide of culture pass him by as he carries on the same routine day after day. His wife, Jennifer (Lewis), tries to convince him that his barber shop is the culture that he wants to be a part of, but Calvin is certain that thereís more out there for him. Heís just not sure how to find it.

The core of Barbershopís charm lies in the assertion, as Jennifer insists, that hair-cutting is cultural pride in microcosm. In Calvinís neighborhood, his shop is a place where black men can be black men, everyoneís on equal ground, and no oneís going to break through that. Every day, African-American men and boys pass through, getting their hair cut and shooting the shit, connecting on that very basic level of human understanding. As Barbershop sees it, a hair cut is a means of asserting your identity, of making yourself how you want to be seen. Hair isnít a status symbol to these guys; itís simply a sign of being. And the barber is the artist who lets you feel that.

Black identity is what Barbershop is all about, in fact. But instead of presenting the unified front that so many films try to show when dealing with such material, the movie gives a little insight into the generational gap that frequently separates ideologies. As a bit of a surprise, though, itís the youngíuns who speak for the impact of history, and the old-timer barber, Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer, aged quite badly a few decades and tricked up with Don King hair), who attempts to diminish the effects of historyís most famous civil rights figures. Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., Jesse JacksonóEddie doesnít let any of them off. This has been a major source of controversy, as well, with Jackson, Al Sharpton, and other African-American leaders threatening a boycott on the film, but theyíre really missing the point. The things Eddie says about Parks (she was just tired and sat down, with no noble intentions of making a point) and King, Jr. (that he was promiscuous) are ostensibly disrespectful, but they also serve to humanize these larger-than-life figures, to make them regular people with regular flaws and motives, and this reinforces the idea that anyone can make a difference, no matter how visible they are or how well they can lead. (What he says about Jackson, though, you canít really make a case for good intentions with; but it does reflect the way many people, black and white, feel about the man.) And the fact that the younger barbers are the ones defending Parks and King, even having not experienced the history that has made them who they are, speaks to the hopes of a society that puts its future in the hands of its young people. If these people can understand and appreciate what has been sacrificed for them, then maybe everyone has a chance after all.

But while Barbershop does have a very positive social message, itís also a comedy, and it is in this capacity that the film usually falls flat. What little plot there is involves Calvin selling his shop to a loan shark and then desperately trying to come up with the money to buy it back after the shark jacks up the price. But itís essentially a movie without a plot, so the comedy really doesnít wrap itself around any steadfast concepts. This causes much of whatís supposed to be funny to just end up being scattershot and a little pointless. It also suffers from that tendency common to movies to rely on the Funny Fatties to provide comic relief, and it grows old fast. But, you know what? If itís able to market itself as a comedy, and then inspire a few unsuspecting people to be more optimistic about race, then good for it. In emphasizing the simplicity of identity, Barbershop does a service to the audience: It tells them to be who they are.

óCole Sowell


hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...

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