Beauty Shop


Laura Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Laura Clifford 
Beauty Shop
Robin Clifford of Reeling Reviews Robin Clifford 

Gina Norris (Queen Latifah, "Bringing Down the House") has moved from Chicago's "Barbershop" neighborhood to Atlanta, so her piano prodigy daughter Vanessa (Paige Hurd, "The Cat in the Hat") can attend a prestigious music school.  The hair stylist is beloved by her new society clients, but under appreciated by Euro-snob owner Jorge Christophe (Kevin Bacon, "The Woodsman"), so Gina gambles and opens up her own "Beauty Shop."

Laura:
Queen Latifah has such enjoyable presence, but she rarely seems to back projects that are really worth her while.  "Beauty Shop" is too amiable to dislike, unlike the borderline offensive "Bringing Down the House," but director Bille Woodruff ("Honey") gives the film an almost intolerably slow build.  The movie lays there, not eliciting even a smile until well into its midsection.

The lazy screenplay by Kate Lanier ("Glitter" and "The Mod Squad" - ayee!) and Norman Vance Jr. is a walking cliche over laden with felicitous coincidences, particularly in the creation of a piano playing electrician who lives over Gina's new power-impaired shop and serves as a handyman love interest.  There's the upscale shop (Jorge's) trying to run the competition out of business, just like "Barbershop 2," and a spin on Cedric the Entertainer's orations with the Maya Angelou spouting Miss Josephine (Alfre Woodard, "The Forgotten").  The writers do get the feel of a neighborhood shop, though, with its cross talk and the outside con artists and salespeople who drop in.  There's also a neat homage to Walter Hill's 1979 "The Warriors," with Della Reese subbing for Lynn Thigpen's radio DJ.

"Beauty Shop" boasts quite the ensemble cast.  Besides Latifah's homey but sexy warmth, there's the aforementioned Woodard and Reese accompanied by "Guess Who's" Sherri Shepherd as Ida, a stylist with ever changing hair color and Golden Brooks ("Imposter") as Chanel, the opinionated-and-not-afraid-to-say-it member of the group.  Alicia Silverstone ("Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed") is the talented shampoo girl Gina brings from Jorge's who has trouble fitting into the black environment.  Silverstone starts off rough with a broad hillbilly accent and exaggerated facial mugging, but she shimmies into the part and ends up charming.  Bryce Wilson ("Hair Show") is James, the good looking, do-it-himself braider recruited by Gina who everyone but Lynn thinks is gay and 'Lil JJ is Willie, a tweener convinced he's a ladies man making a music video (and whose camera comes in handy for late plot developments).  Most hilarious is Sheryl Underwood ("I Got the Hook Up") channeling Flip Wilson as Rita, the catfish cart lady, who sells her soul food to Gina's customers, making a fan out of rich white client Terri Green (Andie MacDowell, "Town & Country"), who followed Gina from Jorge's posher surroundings.  Kevin Bacon doesn't go deep, but has fun playing up the Eurotrash in his peekaboo perm.  Mena Suvari ("Spun") is the second defecting client, who starts out sweet, agreeing to hook Gina and her 'crack conditioner' up with Cover Girl, then turning when she gets a well-earned talking to from Chanel.  Oscar nominee Djimon Hounsou ("In America") has nothing to do but look good and be nice.

They are all the reason to see "Beauty Shop," because the Afro-American hair establishment genre has just about blow dried up.  To think that Vivica A. Fox's "The Salon" is still around the corner.

C

Robin:
Gina Norris (Queen Latifah), whom we met briefly last year in “Barbershop 2,” has given up life in Chicago and relocated to Atlanta where she is the premier hairstylist for egotistical Eurotrash shop owner, Jorge Christophe (Kevin Bacon). She soon tires of the salon owner’s arrogance and belittling and strikes out on her own in “Beauty Shop.”

If the idea about day-to-day life in a neighborhood barbershop in Chicago is good enough to spawn the successful “Barbershop” and its sequel then a gender shift to an Atlanta beauty shop should have the same hit success, right? Well, no, it doesn’t. Where the Ice Cube/Cedric the Entertainer films had a wry, often biting wit, “Beauty Shop” is an amiable effort that does nothing to evince controversy. Sure, there is the double entendre when Eurotrash Jorge uses the word moniker” and Gina twists it into a racial epithet, but there is none of the edgy comedy of the Barbershop” variety.

Instead, there is a rainbow quality to “Beauty Shop” that has all of its girls, black and white, living in total racial harmony. As you would expect, there are the requisite eccentric/goofy/sassy characters making up the population of Gina’s Beauty shop. Gina, the earth mother of the crew, is perennially stalwart and cheerful as she brings harmony into her societal microcosm as she build up her new business. She weeds out the troublemakers in her new shop and brings in Lynn (Alicia Silverstone) as the shop’s token white. She also attracts white bread customers of Jorge’s, Terri Green (Andie MacDowell) and Joanne Marcus (Mena Suvari), to be positively influenced by their experiences with the denizen of Gina’s shop.

The cast is an eclectic selection of the veteran actors already mentioned as well as Alfre Woodard, Della Reese and Djimon Hounsou. Everyone appears to have a good time but the script, by Kate Lanier and Norman Vance Jr., of Elizabeth Hunter’s story, covers nothing new and is little more than a series of vignettes: Gina’s ongoing feud with Jorge; her budding romance with Joe the electrician/musician (Hounsou); the controversy in the shop over the sexual orientation of the hunky new stylist, James (Bryce Wilson); and, the frequent banter over Joanne’s breast enhancement. Kevin Bacon hams it up to amusing results as the ambitious, untalented Jorge.

There isn’t much meat to the numerous stories that revolve around this “Beauty Shop.” Instead of the edgy, sometimes politically incorrect humor of the Barbershop” flicks, “Beauty Shop” is about as PC and uncontroversial as it can be. It tries to be nice to everyone – unless they deserve otherwise, like Jorge – but is more insipid than inspired. I give it a C.

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