Most of the time, I’m a supporter of equal opportunity among men and women. Therefore, it would seem reasonable that if a male rapper can pull together some of his buds and make a movie about a bunch of people standing around cutting hair, a female rapper should be able to do the same. Sounds good, right?
Well, as the good Ian Malcolm pointed out, just because one can do a thing, doesn’t necessarily mean one should do a thing. Ian’s words proved fatefully true when a horde of man-eating dinosaurs were unleashed on a group of unsuspecting tourists. The scenario occurs again as Queen Latifah painfully forges ahead with the “can-but-probably-shouldn’t-do-it” film Beauty Shop. The frighteningly familiar result is a horde of man-eating women unleashed on a group of unsuspecting movie goers.
Gina Norris (Queen Latifah), has left her life of harassing the boys at Calvin’s Barbershop and moved to Atlanta where her musically talented daughter has been accepted to attend a prestigious performing arts academy. To pay the pricey tuition costs Gina puts her legendary styling skills to work at Atlanta’s premiere style salon, owned by the snobby, crispy-haired Jorge Christophe (Kevin Bacon).
Our heroine begins to build a reputation with the Salon’s classier (and richer) patrons, but Jorge’s coarse personality becomes too much, sending Gina in pursuit of her very own styling salon. With the help of her friend Lynn (Alicia Silverstone), sister Paulette (Laura Hayes) and new found love interest Joe (Djimon Hounsou), she sets out to get a little respect and live her dream of running a beauty shop.
Beauty Shop barely survives moment to moment, gag to gag, as it tight-rope walks its way along a very thin plot. Trying too hard with its humor and not hard enough in its drama, the movie boils down to being a lot of actors putting a lot of effort into a nothing script. Underneath it all is a story of triumphing against the odds, but it’s too much trouble wading through the copious disturbing euphemisms for sex and female genitalia to see it. I gave up the fight after hearing the phrase “hotter than a jalapeño’s hoochie”.
Despite being packed with more disastrous wrecks than Latifah’s last movie Taxi, Beauty Shop has a few bright spots. Alfre Woodard makes the most of a horrible situation, sinking her teeth into a role as the shop’s motherland-loving Miss Josephine, while the always charming Della Reese absolutely steals the show in her two minute cameo.
Meanwhile, like bridesmaids with bad hairstyles, the rest of the cast does their best with what they’re given. Alicia Silverstone sports the worst southern Georgia accent ever, and Djimon Hounsou stumbles along looking rather lost. Keshia Knight Pulliam (of Cosby Show fame) and Bryce Wilson (not of Cinema Blend fame) look on, perhaps hoping this movie won’t spell doom for their fledgling film careers.
I’m sure Queen Latifah started out with the best of intentions in making Beauty Shop, but sometimes a concept based around a bunch of guys doesn’t always work when translated to the opposite sex. In all fairness, I wouldn’t want to see the male equivalent of Steel Magnolias. After Beauty Shop I can only hope a female match for Barbershop 2 is nowhere near the drawing board.