dir. Tim Story
Opens Fri Sept 13
Various Theaters

The latest of Ice Cube's cinematic ventures, Barbershop, seems to promise lightweight, "feel-good" comedy. It takes place over the course of one day in a barbershop on the south side of Chicago. Strapped for cash, the shop's owner, Calvin (Cube), has to contend with neighborhood petty criminals, including one who dashes off without paying for his haircut. Frustrated, Calvin sells the shop he inherited from his father to neighborhood crime honcho Lester Wallace--a cross between the Chesire Cat, Willy Wonka, and an old-fashioned gangster villain.

The film's primary task might be to present a heartfelt portrait of the shop's significance to the community, employing and reforming troubled youths, providing a familial network of security, an atmosphere of camaraderie, etc., in order to gain sympathy for Calvin and his predicament. Unfortunately, this is sabotaged by pigeonholed characters that could have come from the syllabus of a college-level "Race in Literature" class.

The employees of the shop include Eddie, a graying old-timer who mumbles and rants in between stuffing himself with fried chicken; and Isaac, the shunned-but-tolerated white kid with a big chain and pimped-out SUV. Dinka is a South African character, who says things like, "I don't understand" and "I have a fondness for poetry." Jimmy is the "fancy college" boy, overeager to demonstrate the wisdoms of his education.

Although the characters are, in the very least contentious terms, unimaginative, Barbershop might have been salvageable with a little quick-witted humor. The jokes either seem stale and flaccid (example: Ricky, the handsome hoodlum, is introduced with his explanation of the difference between a "woman with a big ass" and a "big ass woman." Yawn), or they're buoyed by aimless, uncreative slapstick. The trials, morals, tricks and twists this movie invokes are tried-and-true, predictable, and boring. Dim highlights include the casting of Eve as the adorable, spunky Terri and Michael Ealy, who is presumably just paying the bills as Ricky. With all the budget and fame thrown into this project, it would've been nice to see some reciprocal effort.