"Eddie: See, in my day, a barber was more than just somebody who sit around in a FUBU shirt with his drawers hanging all out. In my day, a barber was a counselor. He was a fashion expert. A style coach. Pimp. Just general all-around hustler."
Barbershop is much like Ice Cube's breakthrough comedy vehicle Friday (1995). Both films depict the everyday experiences of the African-American community in as their experiences with social structures and relationships provide comedic banter. Barbershop's narrative is constructed out of a series of characters who each have their own story which is present for the sake of loose characterization, but not so much for any real narrative development. The story in Barbershop is a really simplistic one, but it also means that it's an easygoing one.
Viewers don't have to involve themselves too deeply within the story to enjoy the experience as it is mainly a straightforward comedic venture. The themes in the story are legitimate as the entire film centres around the concept of community; bringing people together to assist each other as friends or simple acquaintances. The underlying message in the film is not preachy or reliant on sentimentality, rather it is one which simply gives a genuine feeling of positivity to the film. It is a really basic theme and a also a rather familiar one, but Barbershop works around this by letting it flow naturally alongside the comedy in the film. Barbershop is a film sourcing its humour from the inherent nature of each character's individuality and through the way they react to various situations over the course of a singular day.
What I really like about Barbershop is the fact that it doesn't rely on simple racial stereotypes to bolster its comedy. The characters are not defined by their race, they are defined by their humanity and the humour comes from the way they interact with each other at a swift and believable rate. There is a side plot surrounding the physical gag of two characters constantly trying to break open a stolen ATM, but the main comic focus in the film simply plays into the dialogue from the characters. Barbershop's refusal to submit to simplistic stereotypes is one of its finest qualities, even when it manages to border on them without crossing the line. An example of this include the fact that the term "Damn" is used sporadically over the course of the film without ever getting excessive, effectively providing some of the funniest moments in the film due to a lack of overexposure.
Barbershop also knows the right time to tone down its comedic elements. The story doesn't offer any major development but does have some good moments of drama that still maintain the lighthearted charm of the film. For example, the moment where Terri Jones breaks up with her cheating boyfriend without resorting to any kind of aggressive racial stereotype provides a really compelling moment of realistic drama. She tells him in the most respectful manner she can, getting frustrated only slightly as he refuses to accept the reality of the situation. Barbershop is a comedy which knows when to restrain itself while functioning on a dramatic level, even taking some occasional moments to discuss some really intelligent concepts about racial identity without being a tedious political statement.
Barbershop succeeds on a small budget as it functions within a singular location which is ripe with appealing scenery. With its simplistic narrative and reliance on dialogue, the performances of the cast are a key factor in bringing it to prominence. And Tim Story lets their natural charms flourish.
Ice Cube is a fine lead for Barbershop. Ice Cube has proven his talents for comedy multiple times, and Barbershop provides a key opportunity for him to remind us all of that. The film provides him a pivotal opportunity for him to show audiences that he is far more than a one-dimensional stereotype. Fans of his work on Friday can enjoy the fact that he maintains an edgy nature which he occasionally injects into the humour, but everyone can rejoice mainly at the fact that his performance is one of subtlety. Most of what he has to say comes from his facial expressions as he remains silent, contemplating what everyone around him means to his character. Calvin Palmer Jr. comes off as a really genuine character, and Ice Cube manages to project a humanized sense of drama in the role with a knack for comic timing. Ice Cube portrays a character of more sophistication than viewers have seen him play before, and it comes across so naturally that it pays a lot of credibility to the man. Ice Cube prove his worth as an actor of simple drama and subtlety in Barbershop while keeping audiences laughing at the right moments.
However, the real star of Barbershop is Cedric the Entertainer. Though he is never officially over the top, Eddie is able to push the limits on a somewhat stereotypical character without ever being a repetitive gimmick. Eddie is a passionately Black character who uses elements of a racial stereotype without ever becoming one. Cedric the Entertainer uses his natural energy to drive a swift and commanding line delivery with added minor physical movements to reinforce the passion for what his character has to say. Yet when the dialogue becomes focused on discussing something of legitimate narrative value, the actor pulls himself back and tones it all down. Cedric the Entertainer knows when to kick it into full gear and when to restrain himself, and the way he stands on both ends of the spectrum with such inherent charisma is a real testament to the claim made his stage name. Cedric the Entertainer is the funniest thing about Barbershop, and his timing is consistently perfect.
The banter between Eve, Sean Patrick Thomas, Leonard Earl Howze and Troy Garity provides a consistently funny atmosphere for Barbershop with every actor bringing something of their own that stands out. Anthony Anderson's comic energy keeps the subplot of the film entertaining, and as a fan of his work with John Carpenter I am really happy to see Keith David active in mainstream cinema again.
Barbershop has a simplistic narrative which relies on familiar themes and little story development, but its realistic characters and delightful cast help to support it as a well-meaning and funny experience which is easy to sit back and embrace.
The story isn't anything too intricate. It surrounds Cube's character, Calvin, trying to decide whether or not he should sell the barbershop passed on to him by his late father. But most of the film is spent filling us in on the happenings of the employees and patrons of the shop, and their own stories. By far the most interesting part, we get a great sense of who these people are and what makes them tick. We feel like we're right there in the shop with them.
It has its fair share of broad comedy, but there aren't a lot of moments of subtle humor. Which is okay, since it does the former so well. While it's rarely hysterical, you can definitely appreciate the repartee. In fact, most of the highlights don't come from the barbershop at all, but from Anthony Anderson and Lahmard Tate's characters stealing and attempting to open an ATM machine. This subplot goes on throughout the entire film.
With an impressive cast and an even more impressive Ice Cube, the beauty of this film is in its characters. They're not all likable, but you get to know them well enough to understand them. It's deceptively deep.
Ultimately, Barbershop turns a very simple premise into something much bigger and more meaningful. And it does it without ever feeling like it's being stretched too thin.
Although it's not perfect, it's perhaps one of the most accurate portrayals of a culture so beloved by American males.
Twizard Rating: 84
ever wonder what life is like in a barbershop? well this movie centers on a particular one in Chicago; it's where people come together as a whole, talk about what they want, when they want, and at the end of the day they enjoy coming in and coming out
being something as simple as a barber is a craft able to bring something to the table
next to finding out how much the shop means to Calvin there's also a funny little subplot involving Anthony Anderson trying to crack open an ATM machine
lots of well-deserved laughs, moments of clarity and warmth, discussions about racial tensions, oppression, and surviving in a rough part of a neighborhood make 'Barbershop' way more insightful than you'd expect