Thursday, March 31, 2005

Barbershop series should have been cut off after two

For the people who thought the testosterone level was a little to high in the Barbershop films, here is Beauty Shop an ineffective spinoff hoping to cash in on the popularity of the previous two films. And while Barbershop proved to be humorous and at times insightful, especially part one, this lame Queen Latifah vehicle is just a series of scenes that proceeds to parade in one stereotypical character after another.

Beauty Shop begins with Latifahs Gina (introduced in Barber Shop 2) moving from Chicago to Atlanta so her daughter can attend a Fame-like school for preteens.

At first Gina is content with working for the demanding Jorge (Kevin Bacon in one of the films few good, funny roles), but eventually she decides to open her own beauty shop.

Now in most films opening a business would seem to at least require effort, but in Beauty Shop Gina gets the shop, and instantly has a full staff with a slew of customers all in the matter of five minutes of screen time.

And of course the shop is quickly full of eccentric (although in my case uninteresting) characters. There is Alicia Silverstone as a shampoo girl who defects from Jorges shop to help Gina, Djimon Hounsou as the upstairs neighbor who also happens to be an electrician and a great pianist, and since Cedric the Entertainer wasnt available, Beauty Shop offers Alfre Woodard.

Hounsou is way better than his material. Silverstone remains pleasing on the eyes, but her performance features one of the worst southern accents I have ever heard. As for Woodard, she can be a good actress, but shes no Cedric the Entertainer.

Beauty Shop boasts a trio of writers who either helped with the story or screenplay. I have a hard time believing any of them actually had to do much work. The film doesnt have much of a story, but instead consists of nothing more than a series of events that are only connected because the same characters happen to inhabit both scenes.

What little material is used for plot development is so easy to predict that anyone who has seen a movie in the last 30 years will be able to connect the dots Latifah has proven to be capable of making the transition from music to screen, but she is stuck in a film that doesnt give her much to showcase her talents. The best moments in Beauty Shop come when it takes time to further the relationship between Gina and her daughter.

Unfortunately, director Bille Woodruff (whose previous work includes Honey and music videos) would rather have musical montages and scenes that feature Z-rate banter compared to its predecessor. Its as if his direction is stuck in rinse, lather, and repeat mode for 105 minutes.

By the time Beauty Shop does reach its predictable happy ending, it becomes apparent that this cast doesnt have characters youll remember, it has people youd just as soon forget.

Discount dandy of the week

This weeks discount dandy is Finding Neverland (B), the enjoyable, though slightly overrated, drama that garnered six Oscar nominations, including best picture.

Finding Neverland tells the story of J.M. Barrie (Johnny Depp), the author of Peter Pan, who used his friendship with a widow (Kate Winslet) and her children to inspire his work.

Directed by Marc Forster, Finding Neverland is a pretty straightforward film that effectively balances its whimsical child-like moments with its heartfelt emotional conclusion.

The cast is first-rate.

Depp continues to build an impressive resume, while Winslet continues to establish herself as one of the industrys most underrated actresses. There is also nice work from Julie Christie and Freddie Highmore as the widows youngest son.

I liked Finding Neverland, but Im certain it wasnt one of 2004s five best films. Still, its effective enough to merit a look especially at a discount price.

Finding Neverland opens Friday at the Plaza 6, where all movies are $1.50.

Sportswriter/movie reviewer Micheal Compton never goes to a beauty shop or barber shop. His looks are natural. If youd like to talk about movies, or send a donation for plastic surgery, e-mail him at mcompton@bgdailynews.com.

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