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movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Barbershop

Starring: Ice Cube, Anthony Anderson
Director: Tim Story
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 102 Minutes
Release Date: August 2002
Genre: Comedy

*Also starring: Sean Patrick Thomas

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1.  Harvey Karten review follows movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review
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Review by Harvey Karten
3 stars out of 4

Back in the days that New York cab drivers knew how to get to Grand Central Station and the Mach 3 razor blade had not been introduced, shaving was a matter of scrape and pull, scratches and styptic pencils. If you wanted the job done right, you went to the local barber shop, walking past the now almost defunct red-and-white totem signifying that even further back, barbers were surgeons. Little kids would look in awe as their parents would say, "Gimme the works," and while the older ones relaxed under hot towels, they talked politics with their barbers. Nowadays it seems that people are going either to hairstylists, paying up to $200 for a fancy cut, or to the neighborhood guy as they used to, but Playboy Magazine has taken the place of the Daily News, the Daily Mirror and the Journal American which used to be available each business day, and the talk is more about Al the bookie than about Al Queda. Is that the way you barber shop seems?

Not so in Chicago's South Side, where an all-black clientele take their chances with an uneven assortment of tonsorial talent. In Tim Story's "Barbershop," a cross section of the community patronize a place owned by Calvin Palmer (Ice Cube), a shop whose ample size belies its financial condition. Customers are not leaving the tips they used to leave, and Calvin's late father ran the place into the ground by giving away too many free haircuts. Calvin is threatened with seizure of the place for nonpayment of taxes, and in a moment of despair sells the shop for $20,000 cash to the local loan shark, Lester Wallace (Keith David).

What transpires during the course of this sweet ode to community living is slapstick comedy, thankfully not of the toilet variety but silly nonetheless including the theft of an ATM from the local Indian merchant by the obese JD (Anthony Anderson) and his partner Billy (Lahmard Tate). Seeming to come from another movie but merging at its conclusion, the thieves spend most of the single day covered by Mark Brown, Don D. Scott and Marshall Todd's screenplay trying to pry open the metal monster. While the slapstick criminal action opens the film, Tim Story might have done better by concentrating wholly on the action within the barber shop at the risk of having the production come off as a filmed play.

"Barbershop" could be looked upon as a mostly entertaining, sometimes funny, and at best sweet and sentimental story about the tensions created within the place by people whose opinions run the gamut of fairly conventional politics and whose relationships with the opposite sex are likewise conventional or at least a reflection of the way real men think they should talk about women. Terri Jones (played by Eve) must decide whether to get rid of her two-timing boy friend once and for all, and of course the audience roots for her to show the guy the exit. Rick (Michael Ealy) risks being framed for a theft to serve a life sentence as a 3-time loser. Isaac (Troy Garity), the shop's white barber who feels an affinity with the rest of the group because he has a black girl friend inevitably gets into a scuffle with another who advises that "the white barber shop is uptown." Dinka (Leonard Earl Howze) is a Nigerian who appears clueless and asks advice on how to make it with the women. Jimmy (Sean Patrick Thomas) is using his earnings as a barber to work his way through college and, as the most educated of the group is looked upon as patronizing. (He gets his comeuppance when he errs on the proper categorizing of scallops.)

Two performers stand out. One is Ice Cube, a former rapper, who ironically tells the others to "stop cussin." Cube gives a low key performance which is a gem simply because so many of the others are shrill and off the wall. However in the role of an aging barber with no customers but with a helluva lot of political opinions, Cedric the Entertainer, the show stealer in the regrettable movie "Serving Sara," steals yet another by putting down the likes of Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and O.J. Simpson (while stating that he would never say these things in front of whites).

The film's message seems to be not so much "make something of yourself," but "do what you really like to do." From the way these fellas look forward to each day's work despite their barely scraping by, we see how much they care about one another and we root for Calvin to do all he can to save the store.

Copyright 2002 Harvey Karten

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