Rated: PG-13 for adult language, sexual references, mild violence, adult humor.
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Directed By: Tim Story
Running Time: 1:42
Review by: Felix Vasquez Jr.
Review Date: 6/13/04


Since "Soul Food" there has been a lack of really good films that portray African Americans in a positive light. There's always some film with a hip hop star who smokes weed and chugs alcohol and talks in small odd sentences, so I expected nothing from "Barbershop", but I was truly thrown for a loop at this very smart, very clever, very well-written, and very funny piece of filmmaking known as "Barbershop".

Starring an ensemble cast of predominant African American actors, all talented, this stars Ice Cube as Calvin Palmer, the son of a beloved barber who inherits his father's old barbershop and takes it for granted mostly running the shop for his father's sake viewing it as a waste of time and money; but when he has aspirations of starting a record company, he secretly sells it to local neighborhood loan shark Lester Wallace and slowly begins moving everything out from under the employees who have a bond, and function as a family.

I was truly surprised with this film, because of the screenplay which invokes a large array of truly hilarious and likable characters. Possibly the most appealing being Terri Jones played well by rapper turned actor Eve who has a cheating philandering boyfriend she keeps going back to. She's the only girl in the barbershop but surely enough has balls and barks like any of the other men in the shop.

There's an eclectic and appealing array of characters that I just couldn't get over because I've seen these types of characters, I've talked to them, and I've been to barbershops that form their own little community within the confines of a small shop and have a brotherhood, and you want to see more of them as the film progresses. Each one of the characters could be presented in a demeaning typical manner that desperately try to reach for comedy but this film doesn't, each character is presented in an intelligent and likable persona. There's Isaac (Troy Garrity) the only white barber who tries to be black; another character that could have been turned into a gag, but is portrayed as dignified, likable and smart, there's Terri Jones the only female barber who could have been portrayed in the normal stereotypes but is possibly the best character, and there's Sean Patrick Thomas who plays the intellectual Jimmy James who always corrects his friends and has a superiority complex; it could have been easy to turn him into a caricature, but even he's very likable.

The screenplay written by Mark Brown, Don D. Scott, and Marshall Todd create a very smart screenplay that never knocks its characters down a peg and fully realizes their potential and on-screen presence. Each of the talented cast is never wasted and everyone seems to shine including Cedric the Entertainer, perhaps the funniest character in the bunch who plays Eddie the only senior in the bunch and a ranting raving barber who lectures, and insults and breaks apart society with his hilarious anecdotes of wisdom while sparking comedy with quick one-liners that will surely make you laugh out loud, especially with the scene where the young boy gets a patch of his hair cut accidentally and Ed begins making fun of him; probably one of the best scenes of the movie.

In another one of the best scenes of the film, a lot of the customers question Ed's real role in the barbershop since his chair never has a customer, but you understand why he's there when he begins shaving a customer the old fashioned way with a razor blade as all the employees look on hearing him talk to them about cutting hair and about life. The film unfortunately takes some old movie devices but manages to recycle them into some of the best scenes in the film including a dancing scene in the shop set to music that is so endearing and charming; an easily tired old device that hasn't been that fun to watch since "The Big Chill" started it in 1983.

Ice Cube, a talented actor who seems to waste his time with a lot of the "Friday" films shines as the charming lead Calvin who's conflicted to sell the shop to start his career or keep it because it's a token of his father's memory and a capsule of people who are a family connected to one place. "Barbershop" captures the old time friendships and bonds people form and brings it onto the screen; the screenplay gives us characters we can relate to, characters we can fall for, the cast of talented ensemble actors shine and make this an entertaining and memorable experience that can not be missed. "Barbershop" is a glimpse into a dying breed of old time barbershops that bring people together through haircutting.

Inside the barbershop is where the best stuff happens and it's a shame, because outside is where it all seems to fall apart at the seams creating a subplot that has little to no interesting aspects and seems to just detract away from the story as Anthony Anderson star in a subplot about their theft next door to the barbershop in which they steal an ATM machine and attempt to pry it open for the money; now while that sets things up for humorous situations, I hardly found it relevant to the story at hand and with either of the characters. It seemed tacked on and like a completely different movie that failed to draw my interest. The subplot contributes nothing to the film and pretty much wastes time while it should be focusing on the barbershop. There's nothing wrong with focusing entirely on the barbershop, and the writers seem to show that they don't have enough faith to focus solely on the barbershop or its characters but instead delves into the nonsensical and unfunny subplot. Anthony Anderson chews the scenery as always with his quirky annoying over the top screaming and physical comedy and is grossly out if place here.

A somewhat flawed but original, very funny, charming, endearing ensemble dramedy with interesting entertaining characters and well acted performances; truly a great portrait of African American individuals, one of the rare enjoyable ones since "Soul Food" that doesn't demean them to stereotypes or clichés for the sake of comedy. As a character declares in the film, "Man, I love this place!" My sentiments exactly, and I want more.




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