September 20, 2002 -- "Barbershop" is a good-hearted ensemble comedy with a variety of quirky characters and an engaging story. In this lean, end-of-summer movie season, it is about the best new wide release film around.
Ice Cube of "Ghosts of Mars" stars as Calvin, a guy who is itching to change his life. Saddled with debt and a barbershop he doesn't really want any more, he makes a desperate deal with a local loan shark, Lester (played by Keith David of "Novacaine") to sell his barbershop, a barbershop that has been in his family for nearly 50 years. Then, he starts having second thoughts about the sale.
Meanwhile, a couple of local punks, Billy (Lahmard J. Tate of "Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood") and JD (Anthony Anderson of "Exit Wounds"), steal a cash machine from a convenience store across the street and one of the barbers, Ricky (Michael Ealy of "Bad Company"), is accused of the crime. If convicted, Ricky will spend life in prison under the "three strikes" law. Another one of the barbers, Terri Jones (Eve of "XXX"), is having troubles with her boyfriend, another barber, Dinka (Leonard Howze) has a crush on Terri. Yet another barber, Jimmy James (Sean Patrick Thomas of "Halloween: Resurrection") has a superiority complex and is always getting into arguments with the shop's only white barber, Isaac Rosenberg (Troy Garity of "Bandits"). An old barber, Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer of "The Original Kings of Comedy") never has any customers, but has plenty of politically incorrect funny things to say about any subject that comes up.
As you can see, there are enough plot lines here for several movies, but it all seems to work out well enough. There is enough time devoted to the various parallel subplots, while keeping the main storylines on the front burner. The structure of the movie reminded me of "Car Wash," which also had a large ensemble cast, multiple story lines and a killer soundtrack. There are some good songs on the "Barbershop" soundtrack, including "Superfly," "I'll Take You There" by the Staple Singers and "Got To Give It Up (Part 1)" by Marvin Gaye and other popular music. The film has its share of laughs, and some dramatic moments, but it is mainly light entertainment. It is easy to like because most of the characters are good people who are trying to make it as best they can. The characters are also interesting and diverse. The characters have a secure ethnic identity, but they also display universal traits. This movie should appeal to a wide audience.
Although Ice Cube does have the main dramatic role in the film, he doesn't have to carry the film. The acting burden is well distributed among the members of this large, talented cast. There is a good chemistry among the actors. While the cast is mainly male, two of the women, Eve, and Jazsmin Lewis, who plays Calvin's wife in the film, have important parts to play in the story. In many comedies, men are portrayed as fools while women are wise. In this film, women are wise, but the men are not fools. The film has good balance in that regard, better than most comedies. Director Tim Story (a rapper) does a good job of keeping all the diverse characters and story elements on track. This film rates a B.
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