Shave and a hair cut, two bits.
Ice Cube. Just say the words. Ice Cube. What do they sound like to you? A refreshing condiment in a drink? A sexual device? Something you can carve a swan out of? Would you believe a one man movie force who has starred in such films as Anaconda, John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars, and all three Friday films? If you chose the latter, you'd be guessing right—Ice Cube is one of the hottest actors in Hollywood, though I'm not sure if it's because of talent or pure luck. In any case, 2002 saw Cube starring in the surprise hit Barbershop, a story about inner city Chicago folks talking shop in a barbershop. MGM has released this comedy on DVD, so sit yo' butt down and get ready for a trim.
Facts of the Case
Barbershop revolves around a group of people who work and socialize in a local barbershop owned by Calvin (Cube), who inherited the store from his deceased father. The wacky gang of socialites includes Calvin's wife Jennifer (Jazmine Lewis, How To Be A Player); the egotistic, educated Jimmy James (Sean Patrick Thomas, Halloween: Resurrection); the hotheaded Terri (singer Eve); the white guy who thinks he's black, Isaac (Troy Garity, Bandits); the shifty Ricky Nash (Michael Ealy, Bad Company); the elderly, un-PC Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer, Kingdom Come); and a host of other nutty characters who trample in and out of Calvin's shop. The story involves Calvin's sale of the Barbershop to a notorious loan shark Lester (played with glee by Keith David, They Live) and two bumbling burglars (Anthony Anderson and Lahmard Tate) who have stolen an ATM from a convenience store but can't seem to crack it open. It's just another day in the hot seat for everyone at the Barbershop.
I was more than bowled over with Barbershop's warm and entertaining style. Here is a movie that doesn't attempt to pull any punches with the audience—it is what it is, and what it does, it does well. The scenes that work the best are those that are set in the barbershop when characters are just sitting around talking with each other. Their conversations run the gamut from white folks trying to be black, Rosa Parks and her role of sitting in the back of the bus, and if scallops are really shellfish. The great thing about Barbershop is that none of the conversations (save for a few) are all that in-depth or probing—the fun is in watching these people banter back and forth as if they were in one of the best theatrical productions ever staged. In fact, if you were to have taken out the subplot with the burglars and the loan shark, you might have had a very funny stage show.
The story for Barbershop is fairly inconsequential. There is nothing very original about watching a guy try and get his shop back after he sells it and realizes what it means to him. The bungling burglar plot seems to have been included as a tidy wrap-up for when the film comes to its close. The joy of this movie is in the dialogue, slander, and sarcasm that spews from each person's lips. Barbershop was heavily criticized upon its initial release because of the views one character (Eddie, AKA Cedric the Entertainer) takes on Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. While a few of these views are obviously derogatory, the ideas must be looked at in context with the film. Whenever Eddie shares his often skewed opinions with his colleagues, they are met with boos and hostility from the rest of the cast. Viewers also should note that the character of Eddie comes from an older generation that thought differently than we do—heck, I had a grandfather who wasn't crazy about African-Americans, and while my family didn't agree with his point of view, he was still a likable guy. Such is the case with Eddie, no small thanks to Cedric who gives a very winning performance.
The rest of the cast also does a grand job with Mark Brown, Don D. Scott, and Marshall Todd's witty, warm dialogue. Though I didn't really need the burglar subplot, Anthony Anderson (Me, Myself and Irene, Romeo Must Die) made me laugh with his attempts at trying to get his ATM machine from point A to point B…the long way around. Singer Eve does a fine job with her role as the cheated-on woman, and Leonard Earl Howze is a laugh riot as Dinka, a foreigner with a heart of gold (and a possible cousin to Eddie Murphy's character in Coming to America). As for Ice Cube in the lead role, I can take him or leave him. Cube works well with the rest of the cast, though out of all the players I found him to be the least charismatic or interesting.
Another reason I really enjoyed Barbershop was that it received a PG-13 rating. Though there is some salty language spread across the movie, overall the humor comes in the form of funny situations and wit, not the consistent usage of "cuss words" (as one character puts it). While Barbershop isn't a movie for ten year olds, I think that it includes an uplifting moral (invest in people, not things) that both children and adults can take away. In an age of materialism and violence, we're all a little better off with that idea. Recommended.
Barbershop is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Though not the sharpest transfer in DVD history, MGM has nonetheless done a fine job at making sure the colors and black levels are all solid, bright, and clear. I only noticed one instance of edge enhancement in the transfer, and no grain or pixelation was present to mar the image. Overall this is a very warm, even transfer that should please fans.
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English, as well as Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround in Spanish. The 5.1 mix on this disc is only so-so. Though the dialogue and music are all crystal clear, the surround sounds are fairly light. In fact, I didn't really notice much rear activity except for the occasional hip-hop song or street noise. While this isn't a very exciting track, it supports the dialogue-driven film well. The Dolby 2.0 soundtrack is…well, about as exciting as you can get for being 2.0. Also included on this disc are English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese subtitles.
MGM has given fans just the cut they want with this "special edition" of Barbershop. Here's a rundown of what's on the disc:
Commentary Track by Director Tim Story, Writer Don D. Scott, and Producers Robert Teitel and George Tillman, Jr.: This is a fine little commentary track with all participants excited and happy with the outcome of their film. There's a lot of information about the production and story packed into this track, and fans should be more than pleased with how upbeat and entertaining it is.
The Hair Club: Included under this section are four featurettes: "The Final Cut," "Set, Press, Style," "Finishing Touches," and "Hairdo's and Don'ts." Each of these featurettes focuses on various aspects of the film—everything from the story to the authenticity of the Chicago locations is touched upon in each of these shorts. Also included are interviews with various cast and crew members, including Ice Cube, Eve, Sean Patrick Thomas, director Tim Story, producer George Tillman, Jr., writer Mark Brown, and more. All in all these featurettes should give you the "buzz" on all things Barbershop.
Deleted Scenes / Outtakes: Seven deleted scenes are included, each presented in 1.85:1 non-anamorphic widescreen. Unusual for deleted scenes, some of these were actually pretty good and could have been left in the final cut of the film. The outtakes are of the cast flubbing their lines—funny, but only for a short time.
Barber School Interactive Trivia Game: A cute little game that lets you answer various questions about the film.
"Trade It All" Music Video by Fabolous featuring P. Diddy and Jagged Edge: Presented in full frame with a hip-hoppin' beat. You go, P. Diddy!
Finally there is a behind-the-scenes photo gallery of various images from the film, as well as theatrical trailers for the movies Rollerball, What's The Worst That Can Happen?, and Barbershop.
I laughed, I cried, I made an appointment with my hairstylist. Barbershop is a cute little movie that is easily worth your two hours. MGM has done a better-than-average job on this discs presentation, including some well produced extra features.
Barbershop is acquitted on all charges and tipped $5 dollars. Case dismissed!
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary Track by Director Tim Story, Writer Don D. Scott, and Producers Robert Teitel and George Tillman, Jr.
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