Cut and Paste

Beauty Shop is clipped straight from its predecessors.

Queen Latifah steps into the Ice Cube slot. The rest is pretty much what you figured.
Queen Latifah steps into the Ice Cube slot. The rest is pretty much what you figured.
A spin-off of a sequel, Beauty Shop plays like most Hollywood comedies these days -- as tepid sitcom, benign product, and cynical afterthought. If last year's Barbershop 2: Back in Business was little more than a dilapidated retread of the charmingly lightweight 2002 hit Barbershop, this incarnation should never have opened its doors. It's almost a note-for-note redo of its predecessors, with genders swapped for some attempt at freshening up the stale leftovers. But it feels like such a give-up, a listless retracing of steps originally taken to the bank by Ice Cube, star and producer of the first two films and executive producer here. You know it's lousy when a preview audience turns on it, rebelling against not only the idle, sagging storytelling, but also the corny, predictable plot twists. The laughs quickly turned to snickers, the cheers to jeers.

If you've seen either of Beauty Shop's predecessors, you've seen this -- could have written it too, and probably done a better job than Kate Lanier (Glitter, an abomination) and Norman Vance Jr. (Moesha), who worked from a story by Elizabeth Hunter (The Fighting Temptations). It doesn't even try to be different, because it assumes the moviegoer wants only the same-ol'; then it offers even less.

Cube's Calvin, the right-on barber who inherited his old man's shop and had to protect the building from the advances of crooked businessmen in two straight movies, has been replaced by Queen Latifah's Gina, the former's love interest in Barbershop 2. She, too, is up to her neck in pains in the neck -- specifically, her former boss, Jorge Christophe (Kevin Bacon), a would-be Eurotrash salon owner, and the state inspector who keeps fining Gina for imaginary violations in order to shut her down. But the subplot involving the future of the salon is hardly worth mentioning; anyone who doubts a happy ending hasn't seen Beauty Shop's predecessors or, for that matter, any movie ever made.

Lanier, Vance, and director Bille Woodruff apparently felt they could take the first two movies' screenplays, replace men with women and women with men, and move locales, and that would be enough to justify their paychecks. The Chicago barbershop is now an Atlanta beauty shop. The elder statesman, Cedric the Entertainer's Eddie, is now an elder stateswoman named Terri, played by Alfre Woodard, whose lines of dialogue consist almost solely of Maya Angelou poems, recited with only a slight hint of parody.

The white guy played by Troy Garity is now the white girl played by oh-so-that's-what-happened-to-Alicia Silverstone. The ex-con played by Michael Ealy is now the ex-con played by Bryce Wilson. And on and on it goes. But it's so easy to replace characters when they're mere caricatures.

The entire movie's nothing more than punch lines without jokes, episodes without endings, plot holes without putty. You should be allowed to pay for your tickets to this phony movie with counterfeit money, if only to keep things honest.