Barbershop is that rare Ice Cube movie in which he hardly ever scowls, and even - from time to time - smiles. Cube's become all-too-successful at playing sinister characters, with his scary demeanor and infamous frown. But here, as Calvin - the well liked owner of the titular barbershop - Cube convincingly becomes an easygoing and nice guy. There's not much of a story here - Calvin operates his shop, while various regulars stand around chatting - but it works, thanks to some better-than-expected performances and a winning screenplay (by Mark Brown, Don Scott, and Marshall Todd). The snappy dialogue makes it easy to overlook the elements that aren't terribly effective, such as the theft of a cash machine and Calvin's cliched realization that his store is more important than he initially thinks. Actors like Sean Patrick Thomas and Eve (who's actually not bad, especially when you consider other singers-turned-actors such as Madonna and Mandy Moore) keep things interesting, while Cube proves that he can be incredibly charismatic performer when he's not glowering at people.
Barbershop 2: Back in Business (February 6/04)
Though the first Barbershop wasn't exactly crying out for a sequel, it was a mild success and a follow-up was inevitable. But it's not entirely unwelcome, unlike something like Tomb Raider, due to the chemistry among the characters and Ice Cube's admittedly ample charisma. Unfortunately, the film also apes the original's penchant for useless subplots; only this time around, there's more of them. For a while, though, the movie is just as enjoyable as the first one - particularly during the scenes set within the barbershop. It's the aimless chatter among employees - including Calvin (Cube), Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer), and Isaac (Troy Garity) - that are the film's most engaging, as screenwriter (Don Scott, who also worked on the original) does a nice job of giving their conversations an honest, real feeling. The plot kicks in when Nappy Cuts, a franchise that's evidently the black version of SuperCuts, decides to open shop right across from Calvin's store. As if that wasn't bad enough for Calvin, the would-be proprietor of said Nappy Cuts is in cahoots with a shady alderman (they want to turn the entire block into a series of commercial enterprises, ie Blockbuster). This leads to a horrendously misguided sequence in which Calvin has to stand before a board and plead for them to keep the neighborhood the way it is. There are other needless subplots, too, which the film struggles to wrap up as the conclusion draws near (stretching the running time to almost two hours as a result). Perhaps if the movie had been funnier, it would've been easier to overlook the bizarre dramatic interludes - but it's not (to be fair, there are a few genuinely humorous moments).
About the DVDs: MGM Home Entertainment has repackaged these two titles into one bundle that also includes a bonus headband (no, really!), four postcards, and a bonus disc that includes a sneak peak at the upcoming spin-off Beauty Shop. As for the individual discs themselves, they're packed with bonus features. Barbershop includes a commentary track, four featurettes (that add up to 40 minutes), seven deleted scenes, outtakes, and other assorted goodies. Barbershop 2 comes equipped with two commentary tracks (one of them is a video commentary to boot), six deleted scenes, outtakes, two music videos, a gallery of stills, and several bonus trailers. This is certainly a worthy purchase for fans of the series, particularly since the whole thing costs as much as a single disc.