Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

The shop is a meeting place, a debating chamber, a safe house, a melting pot, "where the black man means something - our own country club."

It could have been in Harlem, but it's not. It's in Chicago, where segregation's demarcation lines are clearly marked. In the black district, whites are ridiculed, rather than abused. There's one here, cutting hair, a big Italian-looking guy with a flashy medallion. He's not clever, but he's keen. He wants to open his own barbershop one day. Don't they all?

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As an ensemble movie with a social agenda, it speaks the gospel of community over commercialism. The shop may be full of misfits and people with nothing better to do, but it's a home from home for the lonely. Of course, they shave heads as well and ask to be paid occasionally. It is a business of sorts, but Calvin (Ice Cube), who took over the joint after his father passed, has a history of failed enterprises. He's too nice.

As with any half decent soap opera, there are running stories interweaving seamlessly, never reaching finality, but running nevertheless. One such is the misadventure of two hapless thieves, another the girl cutter's battle with her love rat boyfriend and, as a side issue, the Indian shopkeeper across the road who had a car drive through his storefront.

The central plotline leads to Calvin. Will he sell to the loan shark (Keith David) and let the shop go? He wants the money to start a recording studio and has never been entirely comfortable filling his daddy's shoes. And yet there are the people who come for shave-and-sympathy. What do they feel about it?

It's a sentimental decision in a feelgood world. Spike Lee covered similar ground in Do The Right Thing, except that was a pizza parlour where racial tensions rode high. Tim Story's film is more comic than confrontational, less edgy and dangerous. A bit like Calvin, himself - too nice.

Reviewed on: 13 Mar 2003
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Ensemble feelgood soap operatic take on life in a Chicago East Side hair cutting joint.
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Director: Tim Story

Writer: Mark Brown, Don D Scott, Marshall Todd

Starring: Ice Cube, Anthony Anderson, Cedric The Entertainer, Sean Patrick Thomas, Eve, Troy Garity, Michael Ealy, Keith David, Jazsmin Lewis, Leonard Earl Howze

Year: 2002

Runtime: 102 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US


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Barbershop 2: Back In Business