Beauty Shop Billie Woodruff

Beauty Shop Billie Woodruff
Though popular in television for decades, the "spin-off" has not demonstrated itself in filmmaking until recently. And in an era of movie-making packed with remakes and sequels, isn't it refreshing to see a relatively rare mode of unoriginality persist? In the wake of last month's Elektra comes Beauty Shop, a female take on the Barbershop films, with Queen Latifah's Gina Norris (a minor character from the Barbershop sequel) getting her own show.

Gina makes the move to Atlanta as her daughter (Paige Hurd) is accepted to an arts school there. She gets fed up with her job at the flamboyant Jorge's (Kevin Bacon seeping to new lows) salon and decides to open her own shop, taking Jorge's shampoo girl, Lynn (Alicia Silverstone seeping to not-so-new lows), with her.

Though the plot is generic, Beauty Shop does a good job of maintaining the fun and often clever "barber/beauty shop" repartee that made the Barbershop films so enjoyable. However, it lacks the political undertones of those films and also employs a slew of supporting characters (Bacon, Silverstone, Andie McDowell) who have outlandish accents and are way too over-the-top. The real humour comes from Latifah, Sherri Shepard and Alfre Woodard, who put a fresh spin on rather traditional African-American comedy.

Beauty Shop ends up feeling like a slightly more whitewashed carbon copy of the Barbershop films. Those films really nailed the culture of "barbershop" life, and in doing so ignited smart and often hysterical banter, all the while bringing up issues relating to race politics. But Latifah and company have just enough spunk to make Beauty Shop a highly entertaining ode to African-American femininity, just not enough to place it beside its male-oriented counterparts. (MGM)