The laughs come fast and easy in "Beauty Shop," a sharp-tonguedspin-off from IceCube's "Barbershop"comedies that follows stylist Gina Norris (Queen Latifah) as she opensher own salon. But the minimal-effort plot keeps getting underfoot.
After performing peripheral duties in "Barbershop2: Back in Business," Gina has moved fromChicago to Atlanta in this picture so her daughter can attend a prestigiousperforming arts school. To pay for it she's been putting up with workingunder Jorge, the pompous, flamboyantly skanky owner of a ritzy downtownsalon -- played by Kevin Bacon with a gleefully bad Euro-trash accent andgreasy, over-highlighted hair in his eyes.
But as the movie opens, she's just about had enough. Packingup her scissors and you-go-girl self-confidence, she hooks a small bankloan and fixes up a neglected beauty shop on the edge of a rough neighborhood,where inherits a handful of mouthy stylists with chips on their shouldersand 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 smartremarks. They range from the ever under-appreciated Alfre Woodard as aheritage-proud black hairdresser who knows a Maya Angelou quote for everyoccasion to Alicia Silverstone as a bumpkin shampoo girl (with an unconvincingsouthern accent) who leaves Jorge's with Gina and gets a ghetto makeoverafter slowly winning over her new co-workers.
But director Bille Woodruff ("Honey")has a hard time just rolling with the punches, and keeps interrupting thefun for burdensome side stories that the movie doesn't really need.
There's a romance for Gina in the form of an electrician/pianist/hottiewho lives above the shop (played by Djimon Hounsou, who is strangely offhis game in a plastic performance). There's Gina's homemade hair conditionerthat may make her rich. There's her young sister-in-law (Keshia KnightPulliam from "The Cosby Show," all grown up and sexy) runningaround with dangerous pimps. There's Jorge trying to sabotage Gina's shopbecause apparently the loss of two upscale clients (Mena Suvari and AndieMcDowell) -- who now go to the ghetto to get coifed -- is somehow goingto ruin him.
With its sass and brass -- and Latifah's great comedictiming -- already overcoming a sometimes clumsy set-up, sloppy editingand a lack of structure (not to mention horrible wardrobes), "BeautyShop" would have been far better off without any of this contrivedbaloney dragging it down.
The movie isn't especially smart or especially fresh, whatwith it being little more than an estrogenized "Barbershop,"but "Beauty Shop" has an abundance of humorous hoot-and-hollermoments that keep the smiles coming consistently from beginning to end-- in spite of its shortcomings.