Blow Dry

In the ever-increasing pantheon of film genres, one of the recent additions is the plucky British comedy with heart. Usually, it is a comedy with dramatic elements, and frequently revolves around ordinary folks. There is some large event that has the possibility of elevating the financial status of the people, and then the inevitable denouement. The Full Monty, Waking Ned Devine, Saving Grace, and any other number of recent films mined this new formula with mixed results, and Blow Dry probably lands near the bottom end. This time the National British Hairdressing Championships that descend on the little town of Keighley, England. Once it is there, most of the people in the town still do not care.

Britain's best hairdressers are coming to compete for the title. However, one of the best teams is no longer together. A decade ago, Shelley (Natasha Richardson, Wakin' Up in Reno, The Parent Trap) ran off with Sandra (Rachel Griffiths, Amy, Blow), the model for her husband Phil (Alan Rickman, Galaxy Quest, Dogma). The team is no longer talking, although they still own two small stores in Keighley. Shelley has terminal cancer, and wants to reconcile with Phil and their son Brian (Josh Hartnett, Pearl Harbor, Here on Earth), and schemes to do so by having the four of them enter for Keighley. Phil balks at the idea until his old rival, Ray Roberts (Bill Nighy, Still Crazy, Lucky Break) shows up. He intends to cheat his way to the championship, and brought his American daughter Christina (Rachael Leigh Cook, AntiTrust, Get Carter).

Writer Simon Beaufoy (The Darkest Light, The Full Monty) and director Paddy Breathnatch (The Darkest Light, I Went Down) stray from the formula by focusing too much on the cancer and the relationship between the separated family. This is a vital part of the story, but Beaufoy prolongs it longer than necessary. The resolution is quick, quicker than it should be. It is obvious that Phil and Shelley still love each other, but there is also a lot of bitterness and hate that just seems to disappear. The performances are nice, but not spectacular. The main distraction is the heavy accents. Sometimes the actors mumble so much that subtitles would be welcome. The Christina/Brian romance storyline also never goes anywhere.

Successful films in this new form rely on balancing the dramatic with the comedic, and Blow Dry spends little time on the competition. There are many colorful teams, and hairstyles that are even more bizarre. It takes a long time to even realize what the name of this team is (it is A Cut Above). The competition has four outlandish rounds, none of which are shown in great detail, which is a shame. The absurdist humor present in these situations would add depth to Blow Dry. Exploring the other teams in a little detail would be hilarious and worth the small amount of extra time. There is a black team (is there such a thing as African-British?) that looks like it stepped out of a rave, and a Siegfried and Roy-like team with a horribly underused Heidi Klum as their model. She is extremely amusing in her limited screen time, except for an embarrassing moment concerning red hair dye. Blow Dry is an amusing transitory experience, but not much else.

Mongoose Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 31 minutes, Rated R for some language and brief language.

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