Review by Paul Stathakis | 2002

A family of barbers

Need a hair trim or sim­ply a good clean shave? “Calv­in’s Bar­ber­shop” is just the right place. From the out­side, it looks small and ordi­nary, but on the inside, it seems like there’s always a par­ty hap­pen­ing. The atmos­phere is great. Just lis­ten­ing to the work­ers and cus­tomers dis­cuss big behinds is hilar­i­ous enough. How­ev­er, things get seri­ous when the shop’s future lies in the hands of a ruth­less loan shark.

Ice Cube stars as Calvin, the cool and calm own­er of the shop. There’s a lit­tle his­to­ry behind the bar­ber­shop: Calv­in’s grand­fa­ther first opened it, then passed it on to Calv­in’s dad, and Calvin then inher­it­ed the shop from his father. The work­ers there are spe­cial and very lov­able and they each share their sto­ries and jokes.

There’s Eddie (Cedric The Enter­tain­er), the old­est and most expe­ri­enced bar­ber, who nev­er gets any cus­tomers and judges just about every­one from Mar­tin Luther King to Rev­erend Jesse Jack­son to today’s gen­er­a­tion. There’s Jim­my (Sean Patrick Thomas), the high­ly edu­cat­ed bar­ber who acts like he knows it all and can’t seem to get along with Isaac (Troy Gar­i­ty). Isaac is the new white bar­ber who longs for a chance to cut some hair, but is always the first to be turned down by cus­tomers. Ricky (Michael Ealy) is the hand­some blue-eyed bar­ber with a crim­i­nal record, who strug­gles to stay out of trou­ble. There’s also Din­ka (Leonard Earl Howze), the Niger­ian bar­ber who likes Ter­ri. Ter­ri (Eve) is quite par­tic­u­lar: she’s the only female work­er in the shop, she’s always enraged (espe­cial­ly when it comes to men), and does not like it when some­one drinks from her apple juice bottle.

Calvin looks at the shop as a waste of his time. He spends most of his days sit­ting down, wait­ing for clients to walk in. He does­n’t make enough mon­ey and can’t afford to pay the tax­es, but dreams of build­ing a record­ing stu­dio in the base­ment of his house. Tired and fed up of his ordi­nary life, he uncon­scious­ly decides to sell the shop to Lester Wal­lace (Kei­th David) for only $20,000. Lester’s a well dressed thug, who tells Calvin that the name “Bar­ber­shop” will remain, but that he wish­es to turn it into a strip club. Calvin choos­es to keep qui­et on the deal and goes on work­ing, know­ing it’s the shop’s last busi­ness day. But when he real­izes his mis­take and his true love for the shop, he tries con­vinc­ing Lester that he is no longer inter­est­ed in sell­ing. And that’s where the film hits a high note. Lester informs Calvin that the only way he can regain pos­ses­sion of the shop is by return­ing him $40,000 (dou­ble the amount of the sale that night) before sev­en o’clock.

Bar­ber­shop” is kind of like the “Fri­day” films, only Cube is cool­er here and this film is fun­nier and more emo­tion­al. And that’s what I loved most about the movie. There’s humor and then there’s brevi­ty. Every com­e­dy should have a bit of dra­ma in it and “Bar­ber­shop” mix­es in the right amount. The cast is out­stand­ing. Every actor in the film knows exact­ly what to say, when to say it, and how to say it. The tim­ing of the jokes, along with the divi­sion of the dia­logue, is per­fect. What also makes “Bar­ber­shop” a fresh and fun film to watch is the fact that there are two on-going sto­ries through­out the entire film: there’s the sto­ry of Cube secret­ly sell­ing the shop and then there’s the sto­ry of two thieves run­ning around town with a stolen ATM machine.

The char­ac­ters each play their role very well, mak­ing it easy for audi­ences to feel a close­ness between them. The shop becomes a way of life for many (i.e. the work­ers and cus­tomers) and no one wants to see Calvin part with it. Sev­er­al seri­ous moments also high­light­ed every actor’s abil­i­ty to not only to make an audi­ence laugh, but to make them feel their sadness.

Bot­tom line: Direc­tor Tim Sto­ry’s “Bar­ber­shop” is def­i­nite­ly one of the fun­ni­est films I’ve seen this year. The jokes are great, although they some­times sound famil­iar and feel bor­rowed, and the cast works real­ly well togeth­er. I think every actor and actress in the film deserves equal cred­it for their superb job. And even though the film is pre­dictable to a cer­tain degree, it’s 102 min­utes of pure fun. The best part of it all is that laugh­ter is guar­an­teed. I rec­om­mend this one.


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