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Barbershop: Special Edition

Tim Story's Barbershop got the best kind of publicity possible upon its 2002 theatrical release — it was accused of being (gasp!) politically incorrect, primarily by Jesse Jackson and a few other civil rights leaders. The film had a strong debut, and the controversy helped it coast to a $75 million domestic gross, which ain't bad for a picture that cost just $12 million to make. Ice Cube stars as Calvin Palmer, a young man who dreams of raising the money someday to open his own recording studio, and in the meantime manages the south Chicago barbershop he inherited from his father. Frustrated over his lack of success (and the failure of a few get-rich-quick schemes), Calvin agrees to sell his shop to local racketeer Lester Wallace for $20,000. But he soon finds out that Wallace wants to turn the place into a strip club and tries to back out of the deal. In the meantime, an ATM is stolen from a nearby shop by two dimwit crooks (Anthony Anderson, Lahmard Tate), which leads the local police to suspect one of Calvin's ex-con employees, Ricky (Michael Ealy), may have been in on the job. Curiosity-seekers who plan to catch Barbershop on DVD for the first time might be disappointed — the material that got the Rev. Jackson's attention isn't all that inflammatory, although it does make for a great scene in the film. There are many wonderful moments, in fact, all built upon a series of distinct, likable barbers: college-educated Jimmy (Sean Patrick Thomas), west African Dinka (Leonard Earl Howze), volatile Terri (Eve), white boy Isaac (Troy Garity), veteran barber Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer), ex-felon Ricky, and the exasperated Calvin, who must constantly play the referee between his employees. The handful of free-form debates are the movie's highlights, as the characters discuss everything from the civil rights movement to reparations to the proper ratio between a woman's waist and hips to give her a truly great ass. However, these moments are too few and far between — Barbershop would be far superior film had it remained within these four walls, but the double-plot structure weighs it down, particularly since they only have a tangential relationship to each other until the final scene. The two crooks carrying the stolen ATM around town are supposed to be funny, but the broad slapstick is too obvious, and too annoying, to entertain. Meanwhile, Calvin's scrape with gangster Wallace is supposed to instruct us on the value of small businesses in a community — a sentiment we all can agree with. But where the film is at its best is when there isn't agreement, when we all can feel that we're eavesdropping in a Chicago barbershop, a place where folks always speak their minds. MGM's DVD release of Barbershop: Special Edition offers a crisp anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with audio in Dolby Digital 5.1. Features include a commentary with director Tim Story, producers Robert Teitel and George Tillman Jr., and writer Mark Brown; four behind-the-scenes featurettes; seven deleted scenes with commentary from Story; a music video; stills; the theatrical trailer; and an interactive trivia game (where you can learn who really drank Terri's apple juice). Keep-case.

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