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Barbershop
Special Edition

review by Zach B.

 

 

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (Language, Sexual Content & Brief Drug References)

Running Time: 102 Minutes

Starring: Ice Cube, Anthony Anderson, Sean Patrick Thomas, Eve, Troy Garity, Michael Ealy, Leonard Earl Howze, Keith David and Cedric The Entertainer

Screenplay by: Mark Brown and Don D. Scott and Marshall Todd
Story by: Mark Brown

Directed by: Tim Story

 

Studio: MGM

Retail Price: $26.98

Features: Audio Commentary with Director Tim Story, Producer George Tillman Jr., Producer Robert Teitel and Co-Writer Don D. Scott, The Hair Club, Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary with Director Tim Story, Outtakes, Barber School Interactive Game, "Trade It All" Music Video with Fabolous Featuring P. Diddy and Jagged Edge, Behind-The-Scenes Photo Gallery, Theatrical Trailer, MGM Movies Promo

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Surround, English Subtitles, French Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, Portuguese Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scenes (32 Scenes)

Released: January 1st, 2003

 

 

Whoa, where did this come from? "Barbershop" was released with very little fanfare and not much marketing in September 2002, yet somehow became the sleeper hit of the season. Besides all the critical raves and kudos, the film sent shockwaves through the industry as many were downright surprised when the film opened at the top of the box office with over 20 million dollars. In the end, the film went on to gross well over 70 million dollars and gave MGM its first of two hits for the year 2002 after many critical bombs. Soon, everyone was talking about the film (the controversy from Jesse Jackson backfired as real barbers soon retaliated) and MGM instantly announced a sequel and possible TV series. So yeah, where did "Barbershop" come from? It was just the right movie at the right time - and one that deserved all the success and attention it receieved. I guess you could even say that this is MGM's second surprise franchise, just like Legally Blonde which launched in July 2001, has a sequel due in July 2003 and also a television series in the works.

The film follows the day in the life of a southside Chicago barbershop and those who inhabit it. The shop's owner, Calvin Palmer (Ice Cube) is an up and coming record producer who wants to install and create a new studio in his house to make money off of. Calvin's father passed away two years ago, and Calvin inherited his shop. The only problem is that Calvin doesn't see the shop as a continuing legacy, but rather, a liability. Calvin is quick to sell the shop to a con man named Lester (Keith David), but shortly after he realizes that he is not only losing something that's a big part to his life, but rather, a big part to so many other lives.

So it's up to Calvin to keep the shop and get it back from the clutches of Lester. But through the course of the day, we meet those who work in the barbershop. There's Jimmy (Sean Patrick Thomas), a well-educated guy with some personality problems; Terri (Eve), the shop's only female barber with some love problems; Issac (Troy Garity), a white guy who thinks he's black, Ricky (Michael Ealy), the youngest barber who's been given another chance after some crime thanks to Calvin and of course, Eddie (Cedric The Entertainer) - an old timer who exactly knows what's happening with everything. Oh, and there's a subplot that somewhat intertwines with the main plot about two crinimals who steal an ATM and get much more than they bargained for.

Despite what you may have heard, "Barbershop" is NOT a "black movie." This film is extremely accessible to everyone, and that is one of its greatest strengths. It's nice to see a film that does not stereotype a particular culture and offers what a more well-rounded realistic look. The character of Calvin doesn't like to hear cursing, the smart guy complains about things you wouldn't expect, the girl doesn't sleep around and the crinimals aren't really harsh madmen or anything. But more importantly, the film's themes and barbershop conversations aren't geared toward a specific group or anything, but rather, things people can relate to: being different, famous events, accepting who you are and realizing what you want out of life.

The script, credited to Mark Brown, Don D. Scott and Marshall Todd, is nicely done. All the characters are fleshed out enough so that we can get a sense of their backgrounds and distinct personalities. The script also retains a very nice balance throughout of funny moments and serious, heartfelt moments. There are some great one-liners here and a little crazy raw intense moments time to time, but with that said, the moments that try to really say something feel incredibly honest and true. I really enjoyed the scenes with Calvin and Ricky as far as what Ricky has been up to which show's Calvin's heart, but the film's most poigant scene comes right before the climax when Eddie confronts Calvin about what it means to have a heart, what the shop means and as corny as it may sound, why Calvin's father was so rich even though he didn't make so much money - because he knew how to treat people right. It's definitely my favorite scene within the film, because it should strike some chord with anyone who watches it and symbolizes what the whole movie is about. It definitely makes you think about other people in the world and what they mean, and how being kind as well as tiny things really do matter.

Still, as much as the script does right, it's definitely flawed. I would have loved a whole movie that revolves around what goes inside the barbershop and nothing more, but apparently, that's too boring. The subplot involving the ATM machine, while it doesn't feel forced, seems a bit ludicrous. I guess it provides some comic relief here and there, but ulitmately, it doesn't really do much for the main story except at the end. I may have liked it more if the integration with the other characters was a bit more deep, but in all, the subplot seems to be included just to pass some time and add more laughs. The film probably would have been stronger without it in my opinion.

Also, the main plot itself is cardboard thin. There's something wrong that the plights of the ATM machine has more time than Calvin trying to get his shop back. I suppose that left more time for more barbershop-based scenes, but it's not that Calvin doesn't face obstacles in trying to reclaim the shop from Lester. I guess I was just expecting things to be a bit more threatening and a bit harder, and maybe some more time with Calvin reflecting on why he still wants to keep the shop, even if his ephiphay is effective. Everything in the movie wraps up way too neatly... I guess I was hoping things would be a bit more complex and so things would seem a bit more rewarding at the end. The finale and its epilogue are enjoyable, but I found them a bit disappointing. But then again, even if it's all too conicidental, this is a feel good movie, right?

Director Tim Story does an excellent job here. Even if I was conflicted about the plot, he wisely jumps back and forth between them pretty evenly and gradually brings them together. What's also impressive is that he really makes you feel that you're sitting in the barbershop yourself, as if you're in a chair getting your hair cut hearing all those conversations. He definitely brings a nice atmosphere to the film that is really sweet and really warm.

The film also features one of the best ensemble of actors I've seen in a long time, and believe me, they really enhance the film. I definitely think Ice Cube is one of the most underrated actors out there, so I'm glad he's starting to get the credit he really deserves. He shows more of his acting range in "Barbershop." There's no intensity like in "Three Kings" and there's no non-stop comedy such as the films in his "Friday" franchise, but rather, like the movie itself, a fine level of sweetness and a fine level of seriousness. It's definitely a good match that really makes him shine through.

Anthony Anderson, who's been pretty up-and-coming for the past few years now, nails his role as ATM thief JD. Sean Patrick Thomas is a smooth fit as Jimmy, giving off a fine level of arrogance and later on showing a sense of understanding. Michael Ealy feels pretty true as Ricky, while Troy Garity wonderfully blends in as Issac all while giving in his own brand of strength with his ludicrous yet pretty hearty character. Eve's first major supporting role (I don't know if her work in "XXX" exactly counts) is equally winning, sharp and fiesty. Keith David is downright sly and a joy to watch as loan shark Lester, and finally, Cedric The Entertainer arguably steals the show. It's not just his hilarious rants in the barbershop, but rather, he shows that he is just as good at serious moments as he is during the comedic ones.

It's easy to see why so many flocked to "Barbershop" and what gives the film its own unique vibe. While it's certainly not the funniest or most dramatic movie you will ever see, everything the movie packs has some potential or is just plain stellar to make an original, spiffy package. There is a warmth throughout that really cannot be denied, and while there are flaws and dull moments, if you want an all around good movie, then "Barbershop" is hard to resist.

 

Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, I must say I was surprised with this transfer. The film is only three months old and it looks like it is much older. What did MGM do, drag the print through the mud and then transfer it? It's not that this transfer is terrible, it's just rather disappointing because of how much of a recent movie is this. Besides the fact there is an abundance of blemishes, nicks, pieces of dirt and little particles throughout, there seems to be an overcontrasted look to the image which results in the most edge halos, shimmering and noise I've seen on a DVD in a long while. The image itself is also incredibly grainy, but this might be due to the film's low budget. But besides all those negative points, which are really distracting, there is a lot the transfer does right. Detail is pretty incredible as the transfer is rather sharp. Fleshtones hit their mark perfectly, while color saturation is bold and fitting. It definitely feels that the south Chicago streets are alive. In all, the transfer is watchable - but the amazing portions are highly overshadowed by all the distractions. This could have been MUCH better in total.

 

"Barbershop" features a pretty solid, if a bit uninspired 5.1 Dolby Digital sound mix in English. Like the transfer, it's not that it's horrendous or anything - it just feels standard and I felt there was some missed opportunity. Everything does seem to be balanced nicely though - the sound effects, the music and the dialogue. It's all clear and all sounds natural, but I personally felt things kept too much to the front. I was definitely hoping for more surrounds throughout and more subwoofer effects. Still, the surrounds when used are good - stuff involving the ATM machine, talking going on in the barbershop itself and the music played throughout. It fits the film nicely, but I guess there is always room for improvement. Also included is a Spanish Dolby Surround track, English closed captions plus subtitles in Portuguese, Spanish, French and English.

 

Since "Barbershop" was a smash hit at the box office, it only makes sense for MGM to provide the goods and reward all the fans that helped make the movie some kind of sensation. I'll start off by talking about the Audio Commentary with Director Tim Story, Producer George Tillman Jr., Producer Robert Teitel and Co-Writer Don D. Scott. It is nicely done, active, lively and quite interesting. While Story seems to lead the track at times, all four talents are in the room together and everyone gets his say in. Everyone brings something new to the table and asks others about their thoughts and roles, which I really liked. It's very screen-specific, so you'll learn a lot here. I'm impressed how they all remember those behind-the-scenes and their names as well as the work those people did. There is talk about the details they aimed for and how they got right (some of it seems to be sheer luck), who did the opening montage and how it was accomplished, apprehensions about casting Eve (though they seem a bit reluctant to admit that), finding locations, praise for the actors, the little things in the barbershop itself, story points and much, much more. This is a very strong track, and you really feel everyone got along together well with no arguments to make the best movie that was possible. It's really great how they just keep going and always saying something new as well as enjoyable. Like the barbershop in the film, you may feel like you're part of this group too.

The Hair Club is more or less a documentary presented in full frame about the film and its cross-cultural topics broken down into four distinct segments. The first, The Final Cut, has clips from the film and features interviews with director Tim Story, Ice Cube, Cedric The Entertainer, Anthony Anderson, Eve, Troy Garity, Michael Ealy, Sean Patrick Thomas, writer Mark Brown, producer Bob Teitel, producer George Tillman Jr., writer Marshall Todd and writer Don D. Scott. The main focus of this piece (which is also the longest at about 20 minutes), is the development of the script and fleshing it out and getting the whole project to work together. It's a breezy look at the project as a whole. Stills from the script and storyboards are put in throughout, plus there are also some on-the-set moments which are fun. I personally enjoyed the audition pieces.

The next part, Set, Press and Style lasts about six minutes and features production designer Roger Fortune. Director Tim Story is also featured here, as the film's locations and sets are discussed in how they were designed for the film's flavor and the more technical aspects of shooting. Besides film clips, stills, blueprints and looks around the sets are featured. Finishing Touches, which is six minutes, is introduced by Tim Story and then retains the focus to costume designer Devon Patterson. She talks about her job, how she envisioned that each character has their own unique sense of style and of course, how they did a damn good job of aging Cedric The Entertainer (who also chimes in with some comments). There are stills and film clips here too to emphasis what's being spoken about. Finally, Hairdos and Don'ts also has film clips and is more of a supplement to the film as we hear from real barbers and what their profession - and the importance of haircuts - means to them. The cast also talk about their own haircuts which is pretty amusing. It lasts a bit over seven minutes.

Seven Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary with Director Tim Story are also featured on the disc. The scenes, "You Want Boom-Boom?", "Ricky's Routine," "You Know We in the Ghetto?", "You Ain't Right with Jesus," "All I Need is $18,900," "Just Give Me a Sign" and "You Smell Chicken?" are actually pretty good. Presented in non-anamorphic widescreen, they do add a bit more to the film's story and more importantly, its characters. Tim Story explains why these scenes were trimmed (pun intended!) and that most of them are probably best left out for pacing reasons and not to get tiresome. Still, they're fun to watch and I enjoyed them. They do work within the context of the film, but then again, they might have been monotnous.

There are some really amusing Outtakes in non-anamorphic widescreen (they last a solid five minutes) and a Barber School Interactive Game which tests your knowledge of the movie and barbering in general (hosted by Tim Story and has the cast asking the questions). I really enjoyed both, as these were some of the funnierouttakes I've seen in a long while and one of the better trivia games on a DVD I've seen in a long while (probably since the cast is involved and that it tests non-movie stuff).

There's not much else. There's the "Trade It All" Music Video with Fabolous Featuring P. Diddy and Jagged Edge (it's a pretty catchy song), an extensive Behind-The-Scenes Photo Gallery (divided into three sections: "The Cast," "From The Film" and "Behind the Scenes"), the Theatrical Trailer (in anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Surround sound) and a promo for other MGM stuff, entitled, Other Great MGM Movies.

 

"Barbershop" isn't perfect, but it's a solid and enjoyable movie that definitely has its moments and should be accessible to anybody. I guess the same thing can be said about the DVD for the film too. If you were a fan of the film then this is a must buy, otherwise, for the curious and the few who missed out on it during its original theatrical run, then it's surely worth a rental.