Queen Latifah presents an awful portrayal of black hair in present day in her latest movie, The Beauty Shop. The movie is a spin-off from the Barbershop series, which starred Ice Cube as the owner of a historic barbershop in the Southside of Chicago. Latifah made a guest appearance in Barbershop 2 to set up the spin-off.
In the movie, she moves to Atlanta to help enhance the talents of her piano prodigy daughter at a performing arts school. The movie begins with Latifah who is growing frustrated with working in a high-end salon owned by a Liberace- esque, ego-driven tyrant named Jorge. She launches her own shop, an almost all-femme locale in a tougher but friendlier black area.
The place is a dump but Latifah and friends transform it into a welcoming place with a sense of style. The beauty shop is populated with the same kinds of people and has many of the same socio-political issues that haunted Ice Cube in the Barbershop movies including the ever-present-annoying kid with the candy.
The plot leaves viewers wondering if the writers had any new ideas to use. But there is one twist that leads to some of the worst passages in the movie. Latifah’s fame as a stylist attracts some of the rich clientele she had at her previous salon. Hence, Andie MacDowell and Mena Suvari make a transition to the ghetto by saying outrageously stupid things about black culture: MacDowell’s character, referring to the Janet Jackson scandal and eating greens to get “a little junk in the trunk” while Suvari makes comments out of naiveté.
Meanwhile, the only white stylist in the shop, Alicia Silverstone’s character, is a Southern white-trash, black woman wannabe. The major white characters on screen are racial stereotypes. In a movie as inept as Billie Woodruff’s Beauty Shop, it rings of revenge, not satire. The Barbershop films empowered themselves, with intelligence and wit, to poke fun at all races and cultures. Characters debated the issues they raised. There was context. In Beauty Shop, there are smart jibes and no context.