Clippers and Curls: Cube hits up Barbershop

What does it take for a small barbershop make it — a good pair of clippers, a big smile and a quick tongue?

It’s a place where tragedy mixes with comedy as hair drops to the floor. You can’t get this kind of service in the mall. If you want the real deal, you must hit up the old-school barbershop.

In the new film “Barbershop,” Ice Cube (“All About the Benjamins”) stars as Calvin, the proprietor of a struggling barbershop passed down from his father. He struggles to come to grips with his identity in urban Chicago while trying to make ends meet. Cedric the Entertainer (“Serving Sarah”) plays the part of Eddie, the wizened barber with a bitter view of civil rights leaders. Eddie delivers sage advice in the form of one-liners throughout the film. Michael Ealy (“Kissing Jessica Stein”) plays Ricky, a hustler with a violent past who frequently clashes with college-boy Jimmy (Sean Patrick Thomas, “Save the Last Dance”). Troy Garity (“Bandits”), Eve (“XXX”) and Leonard Earl Howze, in his debut, round out the relatively one-dimensional cast of barbers.

The basic plot is simple and predictable. Strapped for cash and facing foreclosure, Calvin sells the shop to a slick loan shark named Lester (David Keith, “World Traveler”). As the movie progresses, Calvin changes his mind and tries to raise the money he needs to pay off his debts and get the shop back. Thankfully, the movie does not dwell on the plot specifics.

Most of the action takes place as characters debate, argue and fight over real-world issues. This movie touches on everything from civil rights to education as tool for upward social movement and the integration of African immigrants into urban culture.

All of the characters are easily recognizable stereotypes. However, unlike some urban comedies (the “Friday” series or “Undercover Brother”), the stereotypes are not played up for laughs. Each character represents a point of view and is given equal treatment.

Few movies can walk the line between dealing with issues and being comedic, but this one does it. Every time the issues get too heavy, Cedric the Entertainer pops in with a joke to diffuse the tension. At the same time, the movie brings out the positives and negatives of issues facing blacks in the new millennium.

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