One of the more surprising elements of rapper Ice Cube's decade long career in film is how well he is emerging as an actor. His resume consists primarily of dumb action movies (John Carpenter's The Ghosts of Mars) or inane comedies (Next Friday), both with his trademark scowl. However, every once in a while he takes a role that displays that he has more talent than is apparent. Three Kings showcased his dramatic side, and now, Barbershop shows that he can display a large amount of warmth, as well as a maturity and gentleness not really seen before. Barbershop has a plot, but that is beside the point. The real reason to watch this movie is to take a look at the social phenomenon and interaction amongst the people who populate the shop, owned by Calvin (Cube).

In fact, the quality of most of Barbershop is around that of a sitcom, but the characterizations and dialogue in Mark Brown (Two Can Play That Game, How to be a Player) and Don D. Scott's screenplay. To some, the African-American barbershop is less a place of commerce and more one of community. A haircut, according to Calvin's father, was something that could change someone's outlook on life, and make them proud. The shop is a chance for people to get together and discuss ideas openly, as well as support the people of the community. Calvin inherited the shop two years ago, and views it more as a liability. He has all these ideas for businesses that usually fail, and as a result, he is heavily in debt. He decides to sell the shop to Lester (Keith David, Novocaine, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within), the local loan shark). He sells the shop, before realizing how important it really is to him and the community, and tries to get it back. That is basically the essence of the story. Director Tim Story (One of Us Tripped) intersperses this with lots of mini-stories rotating around the people inside the shop, with everything taking place over the course of one day.

The shop consists of a colorful mix of barbers led by Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer, Serving Sara, Ice Age), an old barber who worked with Calvin's father. Cedric has the best lines and more than makes up for a dull role in Serving Sara. Eddie never cuts hair but is happy to mouth off on any topic he feels like talking about. Other barbers include Jimmy (Sean Patrick Thomas, Halloween: Resurrection, Not Another Teen Movie), a pretentious college student, Terri (Eve, XXX), a literal bitch on wheels with a boyfriend problem, Isaac (Troy Garity, Bandits, Perfume), a white wannabe, and Ricky (Michael Ealy, Bad Company, Kissing Jessica Stein), a two strikes offender. Ricky is the prime suspect in a robbery where the criminals stole the ATM. The actual thieves, JD (Anthony Anderson, Exit Wounds, See Spot Run) and Billy (Lahmard Tate, Breakfast of Champions, Little Richard) spend the bulk of the day trying to crack open the ATM; unbeknownst to them it has no money in it.

Story gleefully zips between stories so that he can do everything on a light, superficial level. There is not enough time with each individual person to really merit the need to add depth, and this actually works to Barbershop's advantage. It gives a bigger picture look at events that touch on the shop, and it also hides some of the familiar storytelling techniques the movie uses. Going into more depth would serve only to showcase how little substance there is to the plot. Barbershop also carries with it a surprisingly strong message about community and the benefits of helping others, and manages to do this while remaining entertaining and without being preachy. Each character has some redeeming quality to him/her, and it's no surprise that everything wraps up nicely in the end.

Haro Rates It: Pretty Good.
1 hour, 42 minutes, Rated PG-13 for language, sexual conduct and brief drug references.

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