An unexpected pleasure, this film is. It’s gotten some apparent huffy press due to gross misinterpretation of a minor scene wherein a character de-canonizes Rosa Parks. The whole thing has been blown completely out of proportion. I fear it will scare the more-hesitant white audience from seeing it, which would be a shame. For the record, it’s one character’s opinion, and it’s debated rationally and with respect and humor.
Ice Cube is the central figure in this ensemble comedy, which is about much more than just a barbershop. Ice Cube’s eyes reminded me of my lifelong friend Michael’s – a musician’s eyes full of concern not just for his own legion of problems but also those of the people he cares for. He is the anchor for this swaying rainbow coalition, and he holds it well. The script is none too subtle about using the barbershop as a metaphor for disappearing black cultural identity, and as a touchstone for the values that the kids today need reinstalled. Between the drama of Cube’s personal revelations regarding what the shop means in the big picture, iconic characters gambol fluidly through the story, with charming results.
We have two criminal misfits wrestling ineptly with some stolen property (the majority of the broader humor is here). We have the crusty, opinionated old man; the princess who’s been disrespected by her man; the earnest African immigrant who pines for her; the “oreo” – non-slang-slinging, LL Bean clad youth bursting with book-learning; the “wigga” – white boy affecting all the trappings of black gangsta aesthetic, who of course no one takes seriously; and the lean, tough criminal. Any film populated by such a lage urban Breakfast Club is bound to touch on many issues (and rely on our own preconceived notions to develop character), but the script flows deftly, adding surprises and knowing just when to change the tone before it turns preachy. Tough work, and well done.
The cast composed of so many disparate characters exemplifies the “can’t we all just get along” ethos without devolving into safe, Caucasian It’s A Small World nonsense. They disagree, they fight, and co-exist with respect. Some of the respect is grudging, hard-won, but all born of this institution that is the barbershop. It’s a cozy, effective set, also.
This is the second film in which I have had to endure Cedric the Entertainer, and I cannot say he is making a favorable impression. Playing the aforementioned crusty old man, his grating shtick did not justify casting him over an actual old man. He seems to be acting up just to hear himself, Martin Lawrence all over again. He did not ruin the movie, but it slows noticeably when he has the floor. However, the heart and comedy overcome, that and the nostalgia for just keeping it real, whatever that means in your heart, without getting bogged down by Message. Nice work.
MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 9/13/02
Time in minutes 102
Director Tim Story