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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