In movies, as in so much else, it doesn’t pay to go to the same well too many times. Mark Brown, who wrote the two “Barbershop” movies, tries the same formula with a distaff spin—the identical premise of Queen Latifah’s “Beauty Shop,” a title it shares with the play on which Brown based this script. Essentially it’s the fourth time around for this story, and the repetition brings not euphoria but a feeling of exhaustion.
Especially when it’s played so drearily. In this version, Vivica A. Fox plays (without much elan) Jenny, the single-mother/owner of a salon in a run-down Baltimore neighborhood whose establishment boasts an assortment of colorful workers. There’s LaShaunna (Kym Whitley), the voluble one—the Cedric the Entertainer stand-in. And macho ladies’ man Ricky (Dondre Whitfield), who spars with but ultimately defends ultra-gay D.D. (De’Angelo Wilson). And sexpot Trina (Taral Hicks). And mousy Brenda (Monica Calhoun), who’s stuck with a man, Patrick (Terrence Howard), who’s an inconsiderate slug.
Of course, there are equally colorful visitors to the shop, among them the token white patron, blonde Tammy (Brooke Burns), and randy old codger Percy (Garrett Morris).
And did we mention that the city is about to seize the whole block of buildings where the shop’s located to build a parking garage? Jenna’s trying to save the place, of course, and she just might get a bit of help from the city’s attorney, hunky Michael (Darrin Dewitt Henson), who is—of course—attracted to her.
In short, this is a movie that you’ve already seen several times before, and if it’s not much worse than those previous pictures, it’s certainly no better; it’s rather like a rerun of a television show you didn’t much care for in the first place. Some of the supporting cast show some verve—it’s always nice to encounter Morris again—even if Wilson veers too far into caricature and Howard is completely wasted in what amounts to a cameo (though his simmering intensity is always welcome). But the lead turns from Fox and Henson are very weak, and so is Brown’s direction, which represents no advance on his mediocre work in 2001’s “Two Can Play That Game.”
“The Salon” ends just as you know it will, which is the final insult. Presumably Baltimore has a good recycling program, but it shouldn’t be applied to movies.