This Month's Featured Equipment Reviews
Barbershop (Special Edition)
Written by Bill Warren
Wednesday, 01 January 2003
|MGM Home Video
Cube, Anthony Anderson, Sean Patrick Thomas, Eve, Troy Garity, Michael
Ealy, Leonard Earl Howze, Keith David, Cedric the Entertainer, Jazsmin
One of the warmest, funniest comedies of 2002, "Barbershop" is
downright endearing, with such a terrific premise that it's surprising
it's never been used before: a "work-place" story over the course of
one day set in a barbershop done as an ensemble piece. It's a black
barbershop in a somewhat rundown (but not trashed) area of Chicago, on
the South side. The cast is all black, except for one young white
barber (Troy Garity), who has embraced hip hop/rap black way of life,
and made it his own. (Eminem anyone?)
The central character is Calvin (Ice Cube), a dreamer who inherited the
shop from his late father two years ago. He's always thinking of
get-rich-quick schemes, which rarely pan out. His loyal (and pregnant)
wife Jennifer (Jazsmin Lewis) promises to support his dreams, but she's
beginning to become a little impatient.
We meet the barbers themselves; Jimmy James (Sean Patrick Thomas) is
working his way through college, and delights in showing off his
knowledge to everyone else, even if it means insulting them. Ricky
(Michael Ealy) has been a street punk, with two felony convictions; we
(but not the others) notice that despite his efforts to drop the
criminal life, he's on the verge of returning to it. Dinka (Leonard
Earl Howze) is an overweight West African who is openly sweet on the
only woman working in the shop, Terri (Eve), who has a rotten boyfriend
and who frequently complains about someone drinking her private stash
of apple juice. And of course there's Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer),
much older than the rest of them, who has an opinion on everyone and
everything, and who spouts them off (very amusingly) all day long.
Customers come and go all day long, sometimes more than once, as we
follow the shop through the day. But we're focused on Calvin who,
unknown to the others, has been reluctantly informed by a bank
representative that they're going to have to foreclose unless he pays
his back taxes. So he sells the shop to sleek loan shark Lester Wallace
(Keith David) for $20,000. But events of the day make Calvin realize
just how important his barbershop is to the community, and tries to
give Lester back his money -- but Lester wants double his investment
All the activity at the barbershop is intercut with the misadventures
of inept crooks J.D. (Anthony Anderson) and Billy (Lahmard Tate),
who've smashed-and-grabbed an ATM from a store across the street from
the barbershop. Director Tim Story intercuts entertainingly between his
"A story" and his "B story." Anderson, who's big and fat (and in
"Kangaroo Jack") and skinny Tate make a good team.
The same producer team did "Soul Food" and "Men of Honor," also
black-oriented films that effortlessly (or so it looked) crossed racial
lines and appealed to moviegoers in general. "Barbershop" is even
better at this, and as a result turned a handsome profit for MGM. The
studio, in fact, was so pleased by the film that it gave the go-ahead
for a sequel before "Barbershop" was even released.
The cast lived together in a Chicago hotel for three weeks before
shooting began, and reportedly developed a congenial relationship that
is visible in the movie. They seem like a kind of family just a short
way into the film -- though they bicker and argue, it's clear they
actually matter to one another, and by the right kind of movie
connection, they matter to us. None of the barbers is painted as a
villain, or even unlikeable; two-time loser Ricky is edgy at first, but
he's the one who speaks up for courage and responsibility. Each of the
central characters is given his or her turn to shine. Some customers
don't want white Isaac (Garity, son of Jane Fonda) to cut their hair,
but it's not racially motivated -- it's they're just apprehensive that
he might know the right way to cut the hair of African-Americans.
The script by Mark Brown, Don D. Scott and Marshall Todd is well-honed:
the director (making his feature debut, evidently) and producers worked
with each writer in turn, emphasizing details and focusing on
characters until it's a small model of the well-made screenplay.
The ensemble cast is outstanding; as mentioned, each has a turn to
shine, and no one dominates the others, though Calvin does remain the
central character throughout. Cedric the Entertainer, under 40 when he
made the film, perfectly embodies a certain type of friendly but
cantankerous older man, who just HAS to have a word to say on any
subject brought up. Eddie seems to be in his 70s, and he has an opinion
for every year. Some of his opinions seem to have upset Jesse Jackson
(I think it was probably Eddie's "F*** Jesse Jackson" rather than his
"O.J. did it"), but they're clearly considered opinions deliberately
presented in a colorful, outrageous way. A special note should be made
of Leonard Earl Howze, who plays Dinka, the African; Howze makes Dinka
a charming innocent, bright but a bit naïve, and provides him with the
sunniest, most ingratiating smile since Gene Kelly.
The movie was shot on a very well-designed set with breakaway walls, so
the action could be shot from any angle without effort. The exteriors
were mostly shot on a real street in Chicago that welcomed the crew
from Hollywood. It's a handsome film, without any element
predominating. The photography is warm and colorful, the sets
beautifully designed so each successively closer shot gives you more
information, and the undoubtedly difficult-to-mix soundtrack seems
naturalistic, even though it's not.
The extras are unexpectedly thorough and well-designed. There's one
making-of about the whole film, and other shorter ones on different
aspects, such as the production design, the photography and
African-American hair styles and fads. The commentary track by
(probably too many of) the participants is as ingratiating and friendly
as the movie itself, even if we don't learn anything unusual about the
making of the film.
"Barbershop" is a warm, comfortable movie that could easily be watched
several times with pleasure. No wonder MGM launched the sequel. I
suspect that this will lead to bigger (better?) things for director
story and for producing partners Robert Teitel and George Tillman Jr.
Do yourself a favor and check this one out.
|Dolby Digital stereo
|widescreen, 16X9 enhanced
||Making-of documentaries, deleted scenes, outtakes, music video, interactive game, photos, etc.
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||36-inch Sony XBR