A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.


September 25, 2011


I bought this movie specifically because I wanted to have some things in my collection to broaden my horizons. I had customers and employees in my store at Blockbuster who adored this movie. They couldn’t stop laughing about the hood with all the clearly stolen merchandise that he kept coming into the barbershop to sell. They couldn’t stop talking about Cedric the Entertainer’s character Eddie and how irreverent and hilarious he was. Of course I realised that this movie was not made for me – I’m a privaleged white guy and this is a movie about the Chicago ghetto. This movie depicts a culture I cannot claim to be at all familiar with, but that was kind of the point when I bought it.

As we started to watch the movie tonight Amanda said “So this is Empire Records but for a different audience?” Yeah, she pretty much hit the nail on the head there. It’s a day in the life of a group of misfits and colorful characters who work together in a simple old-fashioned Barbershop that is in danger of being closed. We get to see them fight and make up and realize just how much they appreciate each other and ultimately how essential the barbershop is to the community and themselves.

Ice Cube plays Calvin, the lead character who works every day trying to make ends meet at the barbershop left to him by his father. It’s a community hang-out for all sorts of folks from the neighbourhood, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it makes any money. We see that Calvin’s father was an old softy who used to give free haircuts all the time and who gave jobs in his shop to all kinds of reprobates who wanted just to better themselves. Calvin feels trapped in the shop though and wants to do something on his own – maybe open a recording studio. The result is that he makes an ill-advised choice to sell the shop to a local scumbag and loan shark, and only afterwards does he realize what a mistake he’s made. For the most part the rest of the movie is Calvin trying to find a way to keep the shop as we see just what a wonderful place it is and how much it needs to be preserved.

I actually rented this before I bought it. I watched it alone one afternoon because I knew Amanda had no interest in seeing it, and I really enjoyed it. The whole “must save the collection of misfits” plot is as fun and compelling here as it was in Empire Records. The characters themselves, broadly written caricatures though they may be, are great fun to watch. There are a lot of genuine laughs in this movie that even an outsider like myself can’t help but enjoy. Those things my co-workers and customers raved about? Yeah, they’re hilarious. The guy who keeps coming into the store with more and more ludicrous things to fence? He’s great. He has a store tag dangling from his hat. At one point he comes in with a pair of dogs to sell, and at another he comes in with a satellite dish in his hand. I can kind of imagine the prop department trying to think of the strangest things they could give him for his next appearance.

Then there’s Cedric the Entertainer. Ice Cube may be the star of the movie but it’s Cedric that stole the show. His curmudgeonly old barber Eddie has most of the best moments with his stand up routines about the civil rights movement and his outrageous opinions about absolutely everything. The best thing about his rants is that you feel slightly embarrassed for laughing at them. Director Tim Story does an expert job of providing just the right amount of disbelief from the other inhabitants of the shop. This movie is absolutely packed with great reaction shots and snappy comebacks to make the comedy come to life.

I also hate to admit how much I laughed during my first viewing at the over-the-top slapstick of Anthony Anderson as the comic relief who has stolen an ATM machine but can’t figure out how to get it open. There’s one particular moment, when he’s trying to get it down a flight of stairs and a big man in a red sweatshirt is trying to come the other way that still cracks me up. It’s stupid broad slapstick humor, but it still funny.

I genuinely enjoy this movie. I know that Amanda objected a lot to the way it treats many of the women in the beginning of the movie, and it does have a disturbing tendency to focus on their asses which is fairly uncomfortable, but for the most part I find this an enjoyable film full of fun characters and with some absolutely shockingly funny monologues. I hope it doesn’t come off as condescending that I view this movie as somewhat like a foreign film in regards to how I view it. It shows me a culture that I am not in any way a part of, and it treats that culture for the most part in a positive light. An argument could even be made that some of the slang being used might qualify it as a foreign language to me. It just doesn’t have subtitles. I honestly do feel that I need more movies like this one in my collection.

September 25, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | ,

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