September 19, 2002

A Cut Above the Rest

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It’s a place where a story unfolds that is so heartwarming, it could have been a Disney movie; the setting just happens to be a barbershop in the middle of a poor black neighborhood. With a mosaic of quirky, likeable characters and some very humorous plot twists, Barbershop is such a refreshing comedy that its few weaknesses can be easily overlooked.

The film opens with the theft of a new ATM machine from a store by two young delinquents. Arriving at work, Calvin (Ice Cube), an ambitious black man who unhappily inherited his family’s barbershop, shouts out some encouraging words to his devastated neighbor. As the events of the day unfold, Calvin decides to sell his shop to a notorious loan shark in order to pursue a more profitable business only to realize that the barbershop he just sold is worth much more than the twenty thousand dollars he received for it.

The barbershop is much more than a place for haircuts; it is also a microcosm where old men play chess, customers come in for gossip and companionship, and the barbers include a know-it-all college boy, Jimmy (Sean Patrick Thomas), a street smart ex-con, Ricky (Michael Ealy), a demure man from Africa, Dinka (Leonard Howze), and a hard-talking girl named Terri (Eve). As the veteran barber Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer) puts it, the barbershop is “a black man’s country club,” a place where black people can be comfortable and “talk straight”.

Fights constantly and comically erupt, with Terri accusing Jimmy of drinking her apple juice or Jimmy ripping on Isaac (Troy Garity), the lone white barber, for pretending to be black. Just as quickly, however, things calm down, when the old men begin telling stories about the way things used to be or when the music gets turned on and everyone starts dancing like one big happy family.

Ice Cube carries his role very well, portraying a young man who begins to learn that there is much more to life than money. Providing some of the highlights of the movie, Cedric the Entertainer plays Eddie as both a wise-ass who hilariously talks about “the three things all black people should admit” and a wise man when he lectures Calvin on the merits and importance of the barbershop.

While all this is going on, the two inept thieves try unsuccessfully to pry open the ATM, and lug it around to all sorts of conspicuous places. Unfortunately, the ATM is stolen with Ricky’s truck which means he could go to jail for life if it is traced back to him.

Overall, Barbershop seems deluged with characters whose acting, while not spectacular, nevertheless makes them an endearing bunch. Embracing the humor and values of brotherly love, tolerance, and wholesome goodness, Barbershop definitely makes the cut.


Archived article by Yiwei Wang