Running Time: 102 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1)
Subtitles: English and French
Barbershop is not a flashy, laugh-a-minute comedy, but nonetheless by the time the credits rolled, I had laughed plenty and felt good for having watched it (again). Personally, I believe its strength lies in its honest representation of the vibrant, free-spirited environment within the barbershop, its colorful characters and their equally colorful banter, and the sound development of the notion that being part of one’s community is extremely important.
With community in mind, although there are some fairly big name entertainers in this cast, Barbershop is truly an ensemble piece, with all of the performers doing their part to best serve the story. This is particularly true of rap music icon Ice Cube, who delivers a remarkably mature performance, laden with quiet confidence and subtlety as Calvin Palmer. As the film opens, Palmer, who is a genuinely nice and family-oriented person, inherits the moderately successful barbershop that has been run by his family since it opened in the late 1950s. More than just a barbershop, the business Calvin’s father and grandfather worked so hard to keep going is where locals needing a trim can come to unwind, catch up on the latest neighborhood rumors, or just shoot the breeze (on any and all topics) with the colorful staff and customers.
Unfortunately, though the shop has survived for decades, Calvin soon finds that he is not bringing in enough revenue to reach certain goals he has set for himself. To be more specific, Calvin could certainly make ends meet, but he is unable to make the kind of money needed to support the lifestyle he wants for his wife Jennifer (Jazsmin Lewis) and the child she is carrying from the shop.
Undeterred by the limitations of his business, Calvin elects to borrow the capital that he hopes will help him make the leap out of Chicago’s South Side. Sadly, however, the money was invested in business ventures of a questionable nature, and none ever realizes the expected return. Of course, although it might help his financial situation improve, Calvin is far too nice a person to even consider letting any of his many stylists go – but I’ll talk more about them shortly.
About to face the consequences of his bad investment choices, poor Calvin has come to a crossroads, and secretly considers selling the shop. If he does so, he theorizes that he can both avoid his huge tax bill and fund yet another hair-brained scheme - the construction of a music production facility, which he is sure will be the ticket to the lifestyle he so desires. At about this time, a seedy criminal named Lester Wallace (Keith David) who wants to turn the place into a strip joint offers to buy Calvin out, bringing the situation to a head. The question is: Will Calvin discover what the shop really means to both himself, his staff, and the community, or will he focus solely on his financial predicament and dreams of making big money?
To answer those questions would be unfair to those who have not seen this film, so now that we at least a general understanding of Calvin’s predicament, I think it is important to turn our attention back to the shop and its staff, simply because the relationships they have with each other and their patrons set Barbershop apart from similar efforts! Let’s start with old-school barber Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer), who practically steals the film with his wild rants! Eddie’s foul-mouthed tirade about the much-maligned O.J. Simpson and civil rights icon Rosa Parks, among other things, is the film’s comedy centerpiece, and unquestionably played a large part in the expansion of the character in the sequel.
The rest of Calvin’s motley crew consists of Ricky Nash (Michael Ealy), a young man with a checkered past who is trying to straighten himself out with Calvin’s help; Jimmy (Sean Patrick Thomas), a college student who believes himself superior to his fellow barbers despite still working in the shop himself; Isaac Rosenberg (Troy Garity), a Caucasian barber who wants very badly to be accepted by his African-American colleagues; Terri Jones (rapper Eve), a pretty young lady struggling through relationship problems; and Dinka (Leonard Earl Howze), a gentle, reflective soul who enjoys reading poems and harbors a secret crush on Terri.
The characters work because they are well written, and come across onscreen as real people whose problems and issues many viewers will likely relate to. Obviously, with this many characters to deal with, there is not much screen time left for customers, but they are also well realized, and still manage to make an impact on viewers as they come into Calvin’s shop for a cut and some conversation.
Now a lot of the credit has to go to Barbershop’s trio of authors - Mark Brown, Don D. Scott, and Marshall Todd - who have penned a screenplay that is entertaining, laden with boisterous dialogue, and yet also relays important messages about remaining in tune with and valuing one’s history, and about how vital the concept of community is in today’s increasingly homogenous urban areas.
It may not be Oscar®-worthy, but honestly the script is consistently solid, with only a couple of exceptions. The most notable of these for me was a subplot involving a couple of inept small-time crooks (Anthony Anderson and Lahmard J. Tate), who make a myriad of failed attempts to get into an Automated Teller Machine that they have stolen. Bottom line, though moderately amusing, this subplot seemed to have been written in just for comic relief, and did not fit in with the rest of the film.
As if that were not enough, the investigation into these crooks’ antics ends up involving the barbershop, in what I consider a rather lame attempt to add drama to the proceedings. In my opinion, this subplot is probably best described as an unnecessary diversion, since far and away the best things about Barbershop are its charming and effective study of the importance of community and the relationships between these richly realized group of characters. Fortunately, the likeability of Calvin and his crew overrides minor speed bumps like this, there are plenty of genuine laughs to be had from the witty conversations in the barbershop. If you are in the mood for a feel-good movie that will also provide some laughs, I recommend giving this one a spin!
SO, HOW DOES IT LOOK?
MGM’s Barbershop has been given a commendable anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) transfer for UMD. To begin with, colors, including flesh tones, demonstrate both richness and accuracy, with even the differences between the actor’s skin tones coming across nicely. Image depth, texture, and detail were also impressive, and I did not pick up on any distracting compression artifacts or video noise during the feature.
Honestly, the transfer is very good in all areas, so to make a long story short, I will close by telling you that I thought it was a very fluid-looking UMD image! It pleased me, and I have to imagine it will also please Barbershop fans who want to take the film with them on the go!
WHAT IS THAT NOISE?
Since it features audio information that is fairly typical of a comedy, there is not much here that will strain the PSP’s audio circuitry, just lots of dialogue and a bit of music, mostly of the hip-hop variety. In both respects, however, the track sounds excels, with dialogue being presented with crispness and clarity, and both the score and sourced music demonstrating pleasing fidelity and frequency response.
All in all, it is a solid reproduction of Barbershop’s soundtrack, and should leave viewers who either listen in a quiet room or have a decent set of noise-canceling ear buds more than satisfied!
There are no bonus features on board this UMD.
(on a five-point scale)
THE LAST WORD
Barbershop is a charming, funny, life-affirming ensemble comedy that both entertains and imparts worthwhile messages. The characters, their dialogue, and their environment are all richly realized, and the actors all do good work, particularly Ice Cube, who turns in a mature and understated performance as Calvin Palmer.
As far as presentation goes, though the UMD does not feature any value-added materials whatsoever, the film looks and sounds very good in this format, so I think it would make a worthwhile addition to a growing UMD library. Recommended!