**1/2 (out of 5)
March 25, 2005
Queen Latifah as GINA NORRIS
Alicia Silverstone as LYNN
Andie MacDowell as TERRI GREEN
Alfre Woodard as MISS JOSEPHINE
Mena Suvari as JOANNE MARCUS
Kevin Bacon as JORGE CHRISTOPHE
Djimon Hounsou as JOE
Directed by: Bille Woodruff
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
You might be tempted to think of “Beauty Shop” as a female version of “Barbershop,” and you know what? You’d be absolutely right. It basically has the same plot as the earlier “Barbershop” movies, only this one takes place in Atlanta instead of Chicago. (Queen Latifah’s character Gina moved there so her daughter could go to a special music school.)
Gina (Queen Latifah) originally starts working at a high-class salon, run by Jorge Christophe (Kevin Bacon). Jorge is like Vidal Sassoon on drugs, and his pretentious nature makes Gina quit so she can open her own beauty shop in the ghetto. Of course, outside forces threaten to put her out of business, so she must whip together a rag-tag group of stylists to save the day.
While much of the dialogue in the “Barbershop” movies was geared towards men and the kind of conversations they have together, “Beauty Shop” is geared towards the ladies. Think of it as an urban “Sex in the City” if you will. Much of the plot bows to this snappy dialogue, and much of the comedy bows to low grade insults and jokes about a woman’s booty.
Now, I may not be fully qualified to evaluate this movie ‘cause I’m a guy. I don’t know what women talk about when they’re alone. Maybe it’s what you get on screen. Maybe not. But the women in the screening I saw seemed to get into it.
Scene by scene, “Beauty Shop” ain’t bad, but it doesn’t really gel together as a whole film. The actors are decent, but the story is held together by a weak string of cliches. Queen Latifah is decent in her role, and she’s supported by decent actors like Alfre Woodard and Djimon Hounsou.
Still, there are some odd casting choices that permeate this film. For example, Alicia Silverstone just seems out of place as Gina’s lily-white friend who defected from Jorge’s salon to work at the beauty shop. Mena Survari plays a rich bitch customer from Jorge’s shop who takes a bizarre character turn somewhere in the middle. Andie MacDowell also shows up in a rather confusing role, a wealthy soon-to-be divorcee who just can’t get enough of Gina’s hairstyling and the local food vendor’s soul food.
Finally, Keshia Knight Pulliam is cast as Gina’s wild child niece, showing a heck of a lot more skin than she ever did on “The Cosby Show.” It’s only a matter of time, I guess, before this former childhood star takes the plunge and poses for Playboy.
Kevin Bacon has fun with his role. He plays it well over-the-top, and he can be quite funny in small doses. That’s probably why you only see him jump through the story now and then. Too much of his wacky Jorge character would have dragged this movie down fast.
There were several points in the film where I had to remind myself what the plot exactly was. I guess that Jorge is the villain, but as I said, he comes and goes. Rather, it seems that the story focuses on all the struggles that Gina has to keep her beauty shop alive. I would imagine the jokes and antics in this movie will make a lot of women laugh, but there just isn’t a very strong story.
I’ll admit, I liked the “Barbershop” films better, but I’m fully aware that this could be strictly because of my gender. It may have also been because they don’t have a female Cedric the Entertainer in this cast. If Alicia Silverstone is the best they can get – right off the heels of “Scooby Doo 2” – then there can’t be much strength behind it.
Still, “Beauty Shop” might be fun to see on a girls’ night out after a few margaritas.
But what do I know? I’m just a guy.