Ice Cube spent too much of his earl years as an actor looking for a vehicle that would propel him in to blockbuster status, and he’s had his share of misses. When he committed to simpler more personal movies like “Barbershop,” he really managed to shine. He’s not the best actor in “Barbershop,” but as Calvin Palmer Jr. he’s kind of the glue that keeps his entire crew of barbers together in a neighborhood that’s being consumed by crime, and political corruption. “Barbershop” may not be a masterpiece, but it’s a pleasing and pleasant comedy about the value of community and family.
Set in Chicago, “Barbershop” stars Ice Cube as Calvin Parker Jr. a young aspiring musician who inherited his family’s barbershop. Constantly compared to his father, Calvin finds himself struggling with his dad’s legacy as well as the expectations put upon him. With the barbershop not making a lot of money, and incapable of paying for property taxes, Calvin turns to a loan shark to keep him afloat. But he has ulterior motives for the barbershop that might disgrace its legacy. Meanwhile two locals steal an ATM machine from the grocery store across from the barbershop, which might hurt someone working with Calvin.
The power of “Barbershop” is mainly in the ensemble cast and the very simple direction from Tim Story as well as charming tone that balances comedy and drama well. Among the cast, there’s hip hop star Eve who is quite good as Terri a young woman stuck in a dead end relationship, Troy Garity as Isaac, the only Caucasian in the group constantly ostracized for his lifestyle, Michael Ealy as Ricky a barber with a shady past whose only safe haven is the shop, and of course Cedric the Entertainer. As barbershop elder Eddie, he’s one of the many source of laughs who manages to establish a well formed character who serves a distinct purpose within Calvin’s life. Cedric garners a lot of the funniest moments, including his off the cuff rant (and controversial, garnering a ton of criticism from the media at the time) involving Rosa Parks and Rodney King.
Eddie is easily the best character of his gaggle of barbers. Director Tim Story taps in to the idea of community and unity in “Barbershop” portraying the neighborhood barbershop as something of a gem for a society that’s slowly been disconnected. Though the sub-plot involving the ATM theft feels disjointed from the rest of the film, it does eventually serve its narrative purpose. It’s just that we spend way too much time on the goofy antics that drive down a relatively engaging human tale. I’m also not a big fan of the fourth wall break mid-way through the movie involving Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give it Up.” That said, “Barbershop” is a charming drama comedy and character study that, after 9/11, we very much needed, as it celebrates the idea of community, family, and the value of diversity.
The extras for the new edition the from MVD Marquee Collection includes “The Final Cut” a twenty minute EPK with the cast and crew discussing the idea of the barbershop in black culture. “Set, Press, and Style” is a six minute look at the production design, “Finishing Touches” is a look at the hair designs for the various characters, and “Hairdos and Don’ts” features interviews with actual barbers and customers. There are a series of deleted scenes, seven total, all with optional commentary from Tim Story, as well as blooper and outtakes. “Barber Banter” featurette is a three minute segment with memories of barbershop experiences. There’s a Behind the Scenes Photo Gallery, and the music video “Trade It All” with Fabolous featuring P. Diddy and Jagged Edge. Finally there’s an audio commentary with Director Tim Story, Producer Robert Teitel, Producer George Tillman, Jr., and Writer Don Scott, Jr.