BEAUTY SHOP (Bille Woodruff). 95 minutes. Opens Friday (March 25). For venues and times, see Movies, page 91. Rating: N Rating: N
The first glimpse of Kevin Bacon in Beauty Shop is enough to announce the collision of bad taste and fabulous bad taste that defines this entire project. There he is with a curtain of blond highlights parted just enough to reveal his leathery man-tan. The first words out of his mouth come dressed in an Austrian accent. And this is before Alfre Woodard shows up in leopard print and Andie MacDowell shows off her booty!
Why would respectable actors sign up for such low-rent material? Because black hair comedies spell both box office gold and pop zeitgeist right now.
Designed to further the Barbershop franchise, Beauty Shop sends Queen Latifah's Gina character from Chicago to Atlanta. She abandons Bacon's snob shop to open her own salon in the black neighbourhood, which attracts a gallery of ghetto stereotypes, both players and haters.
Bille Woodruff's last film was Honey, with co-stars Jessica Alba and her midriff. Both movies trade in shaky drama, but both also understand the appeal of fake truths about the races. Where Ice Cube built Barbershop on a foundation of black economic empowerment, Beauty Shop's deep structure is all about the secret codes of how black folks dis whites. That's good for 20 minutes of stand-up comedy, but the rest falls apart like a cheap weave.