They say that whenever you need to know what’s going down in the neighborhood, the Barbershop is the best place to find out the scoop. In Chicago’s South Side, Calvin (Ice Cube) runs a well-known barbershop that is a staple in the African-American community. His father had once run the shop, as did his father’s father. This is Calvin’s, but he views the shop as nothing more than a nuisance and cash sink.
Looking to get ahead, Calvin ends up selling the shop to a local loan shark, Lester Wallace (Keith David), who wants to turn it into a strip club. Immediately getting sellers remorse, Calvin quickly sees what the establishment means to its many inhabitants, like eccentric yet wise Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer), and young man Ricky (Michael Ealy), trying to stay our of jail. For them, the barbershop is more than a place to just cut some hair or get a line up, but a place to congregate and just talk.
One of the things yours truly remembers about the late 90’s-mid 2000’s was the influx of urban movies that always seemed to pop up a few times during a year. A few were solid, but most were average and bad. At worst, viewing one of those bad urban flicks made me feel very embarrassed to be a member of the intended target audience, for the simple fact that the worst perpetrators highlighted the worst about black culture. Barbershop is one of the better ones in the genre, having real heart in combination to being funny.
The story that director Tim Story (Fantastic Four, Ride Along) and writer Mark Brown tell is a rather simple one. Great thing about the story is, that even with its predominately black cast, it doesn’t feel like it is solely a story for black audiences. It is somewhat like Friday in its “day in the life setup,” without the non-stop humor. The main theme has to do with community, and what comes with it by way of what is called “healthy dialogue” by one character.
The community can be applied to anything, from a barbershop to a church to a neighborhood. If there is a piece of the story that doesn’t work as well, it would be the B plot of the ATM theft, led by characters played by Anthony Anderson and Larenz Tate. While they are funny, their antics don’t integrate as well into the overall happenings of the story as one would think until right at the end, in which at that point it comes off as contrived.
Barbershop is an ensemble piece, but I’d say it is a one man show, and not the man who is first billed. Ice Cube is serviceable as the lead, and has a little more to do than most of his roles. And, it is refreshing to not see him mean mug his way through a whole feature. Other roles filled by Eve, Troy Garity, Sean Patrick Thomas, and Michael Ealy (the latter two having a little more depth than initially thought), add to the film. But the true standout and scene stealer is easily Cedric the Entertainer as the elder statesman barber Eddie. His line about Rosa Parks not doing anything may live in infamy (or at least at the time it did), but that shouldn’t take away from just how awesome Cedric is here. He’s simultaneously at the forefront of the funniest moments, as well as the poignant ones, which isn’t always easy to do.
Barbershop is entertaining and amusing while having a simple yet resounding message that doesn’t feel corny. Definitely a cut above most urban comedies.
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