Rating: B+/ In a predominately black Chicago neighborhood, Calvin (Ice Cube) reluctantly maintains a small barbershop that his father left to him in his will. The business offers a sense of belonging and community for its employees and scarce but devoted clientele, and Calvin doesn’t really think about how important it is until he tries to sell it to a slimy loan shark (Keith David) who wants to turn it into a strip club. Observing the regular’s individual dramas, Calvin doesn’t realize the value of his father’s legacy until it’s nearly too late, and despite signing the loan shark’s lease agreement assuring that he will not back out on the sale of the business, Calvin puts it all on the line to save the barbershop that meant so much to his father, risking life and limb in the process. Meanwhile, two incompetent hoods (Lahmard J. Tate and Anthony Anderson) try to open an ATM they’ve pilfered from a local business, and the two stories coverage in a satisfying fashion.
Most great comedy is character-based, and the quirky cast of Barbershop ensure there will be lots of laughs throughout. The shop’s clientele are in many ways like a big family, although they might not always like each other (which perhaps makes them even more like a family in some ways.) There’s all kinds of tension, drama, and general shenanigans, and there’s nothing irreverent regular Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer) likes better than stirring the pot. Terri (Eve) is constantly pissed off, Dinka (Leonard Earle Howza) has the soul of a poet trapped in the body of a rotund African barber, and Rosenberg (Troy Garity) is the token white boy, ostracized in the true spirit of reverse racism for being a white dude that wants to hang out at a barbershop full of black people, when, as Jimmy (Sean Patrick Thomas) insists, ‘the white barbershop is just around the corner.’
The movie is at it’s best when it deals with the main plot thread of the barbershop; the subplot involving the hapless ATM thieves is cute, but a little too slapstick-y for me. Although it hits a little too hard sometimes with Eddie’s subversive political beliefs involving the civil rights movement (prompting Cedric the Entertainer to go into several monologues that are maybe longer than necessary.), overall Barbershop is a very watchable and entertaining movie, full of snappy dialogue and the endearing characters. There’s a distinct lack of the potty and drug humor that was pushed so hard on us in the Friday franchise, and Ice Cube makes a likable lead as a guy who, although he wants to do the right thing, also is set on making his dream as a successful hip-hop artist happen. Luckily when he gets his priorities mixed up, his wife (Jazsmin Lewis) gets him back on track.
There’s a bit of action and some mystery involving a character’s possible relapse into criminal behavior, but mostly Barbershop is a laugh-out-loud comedy featuring characters who, although they would probably be hard to take in large doses, you’re more than happy to spend an hour and a half with. First and foremost though, Barbershop keeps the laughs coming, and should be perfectly fine for families to watch together besides some discussion of curvaceous asses of the Sir Mix-a-lot variety. In an age where gentrification has become increasingly widespread and is taken for granted, the movie reminds us of the continued importance of those small mom-and-pop businesses, the kind that bring people together and boast a sense of community and a support system for those who need it most. An easy-to-love comedy flirting with darker themes, Barbershop is lots of fun, and is a worthy watch for anybody who enjoys a good comedy.