Combustible Celluloid
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With: Queen Latifah, Alfre Woodard, Alicia Silverstone, Andie MacDowell, Della Reese, Djimon Hounsou, Keshia Knight Pulliam, Kevin Bacon, Mena Suvari, Golden Brooks, Bryce Wilson, Paige Hurd, James 'Lil'JJ' Lewis
Written by: Kate Lanier, Norman Vance Jr. from a story by Elizabeth Hunter
Directed by: Bille Woodruff
MPAA Rating: PG-13 on appeal for sexual material, language and brief drug references
Running Time: 105
Date: 03/18/2013

Beauty Shop (2005)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

'Beauty Shop' Burdened by Plot

By Rob Blackwelder, SPLICEDwire

The laughs come fast and easy in Beauty Shop, a sharp-tongued spin-off from Ice Cube's Barbershop comedies that follows stylist Gina Norris (Queen Latifah) as she opens her own salon. But the minimal-effort plot keeps getting underfoot.

After performing peripheral duties in Barbershop 2: Back in Business, Gina has moved from Chicago to Atlanta in this picture so her daughter can attend a prestigious performing arts school. To pay for it she's been putting up with working under Jorge, the pompous, flamboyantly skanky owner of a ritzy downtown salon -- played by Kevin Bacon with a gleefully bad Euro-trash accent and greasy, over-highlighted hair in his eyes.

But as the movie opens, she's just about had enough. Packing up her scissors and you-go-girl self-confidence, she hooks a small bank loan and fixes up a neglected beauty shop on the edge of a rough neighborhood, where she inherits a handful of mouthy stylists with chips on their shoulders and hopes for the best.

Following the successful Barbershop formula, the movie's strength is its colorful cast of characters for whom no topic -- from bikini waxes to Oprah Winfrey -- is off-limits to zingers and smart remarks. They range from the ever under-appreciated Alfre Woodard as a heritage-proud black hairdresser who knows a Maya Angelou quote for every occasion to Alicia Silverstone as a bumpkin shampoo girl (with an unconvincing southern accent) who leaves Jorge's with Gina and gets a ghetto makeover after slowly winning over her new co-workers.

But director Bille Woodruff (Honey) has a hard time just rolling with the punches, and keeps interrupting the fun for burdensome side stories that the movie doesn't really need.

There's a romance for Gina in the form of an electrician/pianist/hottie who lives above the shop (played by Djimon Hounsou, who is strangely off his game in a plastic performance). There's Gina's homemade hair conditioner that may make her rich. There's her young sister-in-law (Keshia Knight Pulliam from "The Cosby Show," all grown up and sexy) running around with dangerous pimps. There's Jorge trying to sabotage Gina's shop because apparently the loss of two upscale clients (Mena Suvari and Andie McDowell) -- who now go to the ghetto to get coifed -- is somehow going to ruin him.

With its sass and brass -- and Latifah's great comedic timing -- already overcoming a sometimes clumsy set-up, sloppy editing and a lack of structure (not to mention horrible wardrobes), Beauty Shop would have been far better off without any of this contrived baloney dragging it down.

The movie isn't especially smart or especially fresh, what with it being little more than an estrogenized Barbershop, but Beauty Shop has an abundance of humorous hoot-and-holler moments that keep the smiles coming consistently from beginning to end -- in spite of its shortcomings.

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