This review was updated on Oct. 19, 2004.
Hairspray” and “Shampoo” can rest easily: Their places in the pantheon of cinematic hairstyling opus are in no way threatened by “Hair Show,” an anemic sitcom pilot dragged out to an excruciating 108-minute running time. First theatrical feature since 2002’s “Brown Sugar” to emerge from former basketball star Earvin “Magic” Johnson’s production shingle, pic is a step backward, from its well-worn storyline about two estranged sisters patching up old wounds to its just-adequate production values. Already announced as a December video release, pic will be quickly rinsed out of theaters in the eight cities where it opened on Oct. 15.
Conceived as a star vehicle for popular standup comedienne and tube star Mo’Nique, pic begins with a hopelessly old-fashioned montage of her Peaches character, Peaches doing such “wacky” things as putting salt rather than sugar in her morning coffee.
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This is supposed to be our clue (though it’s more like skywriting) that Peaches is hopelessly disorganized and immature — a point driven home when her grandmother leaves her entire fortune to Peaches’ “perfect” sister, Angela (Kellita Smith), while only entrusting Peaches with her Bible.
Six years later, Angela runs a successful Beverly Hills hair salon, while Peaches is stuck at low-rent Baltimore beauty shop. The two sisters no longer speak. But when Peaches is ambushed by the IRS for $50,000 in back taxes, she heads for Los Angeles to pay sis a visit.
The titular “Hair Show” is an annual competitive hairstyling pageant that Angela’s former boss and rival salon owner, Marcella (Gina Torres), has won for several years running. Angela refuses to compete, declaring that the event is beneath her high standards.
However, with a $50,000 cash prize for the winner, Peaches has no such bias. Natch, she must try to persuade Angela to let her enter the contest. This leads to a predictable battle-of-the-salons finale in which the utterly garish hairdos may well lead viewers to believe they’re watching a contest for the worst hairstylists instead of the best.
But the buildup to the hair show actually accounts for a surprisingly small fraction of pic’s inflated running time, with much of the rest given over to unfunny set pieces that veer much closer to “Soul Plane” than to “Barbershop” in their indulgence of black stereotypes.
From the very beginning, pic positions Angela as the stuck-up, “white acting” sister — she even starts referring to herself as Angèle — and then proceeds to show how this behavior ingratiates Angela to her Beverly Hills clientele.
Meanwhile, Peaches is conceived as the keepin’-it-real sister who shakes up Angela’s world with her ghetto-fabulous attitude. In one sequence, a pair of prospective salon customers gravitate toward Angela while seeming appalled by Peaches for no apparent reason other than the fact that Angela’s diction is better.
“Hair Show” is decked out with other equally retrograde caricatures, including a high-fashion gay (Andre Blake) and a back-to-Africa earth mother type (Cee Cee Michaela). Is this really the sort of thing African-American filmmakers think African-American audiences want to see?