As both Barbershop films proved, getting a stylish ‘do is only the most utilitarian reason to visit the local hair cuttery; what one really goes there for is the self-confidence-boosting company, frank socio-political discussions, and borderline-racist humor. Queen Latifah’s spin-off Beauty Shop is of a similar braid, following the ups-and-downs of Gina Norris (Latifah) as she quits her job at a ritzy Atlanta salon to open up her own ghetto-fabulous business. There, with the aid of some candid African-American women (including a Maya Angelou-spouting Alfre Woodard and a terrifyingly risqué Keshia Knight Pulliam, formerly Rudy of The Cosby Show) and one awkward Southern belle (Alicia Silverstone’s Lynn), Gina endeavors to find financial freedom, self-respect, and a means of showing up her eurotrash former boss Jorge (Kevin Bacon) who desperately wants to destroy her dream shop. Gina is a strong black woman proud of her giant butt and protective of her brood, and regular attention is paid to her relationship with musical prodigy daughter Vanessa (Paige Hurd). Yet the real focus is blunt female conversations about sex and race, two topics about which the film has virtually no wisdom to impart. When it comes to men, Kate Lanier and Norman Vance Jr.‘s trite script advises ladies to avoid guys who try to purchase affection with diamond-encrusted necklaces (they might be no-good abusers), but to grab hold of soulful, artistically talented studs (such as Djimon Hounsou’s electrician Joe) who possess a giant African spear. At the same time, its “black is beautiful” mantra demonstrates that being cool is as simple as crossing the racial divide: white women interested in seeming hip(-hop) should avoid plastic surgery (like Mena Suvari’s bitchy rich girl) in favor of getting outlandish hairdos, sleeping with dark-skinned metrosexuals (as Lynn does), and eating collard greens—a recipe, as Andie MacDowell’s unhappy wife learns, that miraculously endows square Caucasians with a plump J. Lo booty. Director Bille Woodruff (Honey) gets a few chuckles out of Latifah’s good-natured sassiness, but his film doggedly mimics Ice Cube’s Barbershop series down to its jolly montages set to songs of the ‘70s (here Parliament’s “Give Up The Funk”) while also delivering a mystifying homage to Walter Hill’s The Warriors via a regularly occurring radio DJ whose red lips are shot in close-up. Consequently, Beauty Shop‘s feisty female empowerment comedy feels about as fresh as a Jeri Curl.
- 105 min
- Bille Woodruff
- Kate Lanier, Norman Vance Jr.
- Queen Latifah, Alicia Silverstone, Andie MacDowell, Alfre Woodard, Mena Suvari, Kevin Bacon, Djimon Hounsou, Golden Brooks, Little JJ, Paige Hurd, Keshia Knight Pulliam
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