Review: ‘Beauty Shop’

Queen Latifah struts her stuff with ingratiating verve in "Beauty Shop," a sunny and sassy comedy that somehow manages to breathe fresh life into familiar stereotypes and stock situations. A spin-off from the popular "Barbershop" franchise, pic doubtless will play well with ticketbuyers who flocked to recent sleeper "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" while also drawing a sizeable crossover aud.

Queen Latifah struts her stuff with ingratiating verve in “Beauty Shop,” a sunny and sassy comedy that somehow manages to breathe fresh life into familiar stereotypes and stock situations. A spin-off from the popular “Barbershop” franchise, pic doubtless will play well with ticketbuyers who flocked to recent sleeper “Diary of a Mad Black Woman” while also drawing a sizeable crossover aud. Down the road, this MGM release will be very, very attractive as homevid product.

Latifah effortlessly inhabits the lead role of Gina Norris, a character originally introduced in “Barbershop 2: Back in Business” as ex-girlfriend of Chicago barber Calvin Palmer (Ice Cube). Transplanted to Atlanta, where her young daughter Vanessa (Paige Hurd) studies piano at a prestigious music school, Gina starts out as a stylist at a trendy salon run by Jorge Christophe (Kevin Bacon), a haughty Eurotrash poseur with an Austrian accent and an acidic wit.

Ultimately enraged by Jorge’s condescending ways, Gina quits to open her own beauty shop. Even with a hard-won bank loan, she can afford only a gone-to-seed salon in an inner-city neighborhood. But she presses forward, while instilling a new work ethic in a staff of headstrong stylists (Alfre Woodard, Golden Brooks and Sherri Shepherd).

With a little assist from Lynn (appealingly perky Alicia Silverstone), a semi-ditzy blonde shampoo girl who also fled Jorge’s shop, and some electrical repair at the shop by Joe (smooth-moving Djimon Hounsou), her hunky upstairs neighbor, Gina gradually starts to thrive. She convinces two clients from Jorge’s salon (Andie MacDowell, Mena Suvari) to frequent her new shop. But Jorge plays dirty when it comes to coping with competition.

Taking its cue from other recent workplace comedies with predominantly African-American casts, “Beauty Shop” is episodic and casually constructed, loping from one loosely connected scene to the next while colorful characters swap jokey dialogue. Conversations tend to be loud and feisty. Among the running gags: Female employees repeatedly question whether James (gamely played by Bryce Wilson), the shop’s only male stylist, is a closeted gay or fashionable metrosexual.

To his credit, helmer Bille Woodruff (“Honey”) maintains an easygoing vibe by refusing to let anything get too far out of hand. Even Jorge’s deliciously fey camping is effectively modulated. Bacon’s clearly having the time of his life in the role, but he’s shrewd enough to recognize that less truly is more.

Don’t misunderstand: The directorial restraint isn’t too restrictive. Many of the supporting players make vivid impressions with hilarious character turns. (Woodard is a full-tilt hoot as a live wire who quotes Maya Angelou poetry with saucy fervor.) And yet, to a satisfyingly large degree, thesps remain in character without drifting far into caricature.

Scripters Kate Lanier and Norman Vance Jr., working from story by Elizabeth Hunter, don’t completely shy away from the harsh realities of racial tensions, and even manage to pull off the revelation of a white supporting character’s nasty side without melodramatic excess. For the most part, however, “Beauty Shop” is feel-good entertainment that is no less enjoyable for being somewhat predictable.

Standout tech values include ace lensing by Theo Van de Sande and music soundtrack peppered with well-chosen rap, hip-hop and oldies.

Beauty Shop


An MGM release of a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer presentation of a State Street Pictures/Mandeville Films production in association with Flavor Unit Films. Produced by David Hoberman, Robert Teitel, George Tillman Jr., Queen Latifah, Shakim Compere. Executive producers, Todd Lieberman, Ice Cube, Matt Alvarez. Co-producer, Louise Rosner. Directed by Bille Woodruff. Screenplay, Kate Lanier, Norman Vance Jr., from a story by Elizabeth Hunter.


Camera (FotoKem color), Theo Van de Sande; editor, Michael Jablow; music, Christopher Young; music supervisor, Barry Cole; art directors, Jon Gary Steele, Kevin Kavanaugh; set decorator, Traci Kirshbaum; costume designer, Sharen Davis; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS/SDDS), Nick Shaffer, Erin Rettig, Mark Coffey; associate producer, Otis Best; assistant director, William P. Clark; casting, Victoria Thomas, Kim Taylor Coleman. Reviewed at AMC Studio 30, Houston, March 21, 2005. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 105 MIN.


Gina - Queen Latifah Lynn - Alicia Silverstone Terri - Andie MacDowell Ms. Josephine - Alfre Woodard Joanne - Mena Suvari Mrs. Towner - Della Reese Chanel - Golden Brooks Paulette - Miss Laura Hayes Vanessa - Paige Hurd Willie - L'il JJ Rochelle - LisaRaye McCoy Darnelle - Keshia Knight Pulliam Ida - Sherri Shepherd Denise - Kimora Lee Simmons Catfish Rita - Sheryl Underwood James - Bryce Wilson Jorge Christophe - Kevin Bacon Joe - Djimon Hounsou DJ Helen - Adele Givens

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 0

Leave a Reply

No Comments

Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

More Film News from Variety