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Barbershop

CAR WASH (1976) transplanted to an old-fashioned, South Chicago barbershop. Ambitious Calvin (Ice Cube) inherited his father's shop two years ago, and he wants out. His newest moneymaking scheme involves setting up a recording studio in his basement, but he needs seed money, and the bank's already threatening foreclosure unless he pays back his earlier loans. So Calvin makes a deal with the devil, butter-voiced neighborhood sharpie Lester Williams (Keith David), who swears the sign outside will always say "barbershop" and forks over $20,000, then admits that he plans to turn the place into a strip joint with a barbershop theme. Meanwhile, Samir (Parvesh Cheena), who owns the convenience shop next door, arrives to find the front of his store in ruins and his brand-new ATM gone. Dumb-and-dumber duo JD (Anthony Anderson) and Billy (Lahmard Tate) are busy dragging the stolen machine all over the hood, looking for a place to crack it, and the theft becomes one of many topics du jour at the barbershop. The motor mouths include eminence grise Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer); volatile Terri Jones (rapper Eve, making a fine acting debut), whose no-good boyfriend (Jason George) has just cheated on her again; portly West African poet Dinka (Leonard Earl Howze), who's nursing an unrequited crush on Terri; know-it-all Jimmy James (Sean Patrick Thomas), who flaunts his college education; white boy Isaac (Troy Garity), who wants to be black; and two-time loser Ricky Nash (Michael Ealy), who's trying to stay clean even though the police suspect him of everything — including the ATM heist. Over the course of a long, eventful day, Calvin comes to realize that selling the shop was terrible mistake, and tries to make things right. Like CAR WASH, this loosely structured comedy is less about plot than character, and its characters are carefully drawn and flawlessly played; even spotlight-hoggers like Cedric the Entertainer work as part of the ensemble, and Ice Cube reiterates the lesson of the FRIDAY films: He's a world-class straight man. And unlike many directors with music video backgrounds, Tim Story keeps the flashy cutting to a minimum and lets the story unfold at its own unhurried pace. The non-stop chatter ranges from comic bluster and scorching irreverence — Cedric the Entertainer unleashes his razor-sharp tongue on sacred cows ranging from O.J. Simpson to Rosa Parks — to the quietly perceptive. Shortly after the film's successful release, the Reverends Jesse Jackson (whom Cedric includes in his blustering rant) and Al Sharpton denounced the sequence as "disparaging and insensitive," and called for the filmmakers — all African American — to excise it and threatened to call for a boycott if they failed to comply.