Her tongue cuts quicker than the scissors she wields in Beauty Shop, but there's so much more to Queen Latifah. Her natural charisma shines through like a diamond in director Billie Woodruff's roughly sketched comedy about a black woman who dreams of running her own hair salon. She first appeared as Gina Norris in Barbershop 2, but Latifah carries the weight of this film and does an impressive job given a script that's crying out for a total restyle.
Gina's rival is ex-boss Jorge (Kevin Bacon). He owns a chic salon in a wealthy neighbourhood, but his diva-like antics are more than she can take. Flicking his Fabio hair and strutting like a constipated peacock, Bacon is hilarious. However, as with all the white characters, he's coloured in broad strokes. Playing the ditsy shampoo girl, Alicia Silverstone merely irritates in her attempts to fit in with "the sisters" - spouting ghetto slang with an acute nasal whine. It's especially galling because Woodruff uses her to deliver a clumsy message about racial tolerance.
"LATIFAH HAS A RADIANCE THAT FILLS THE SCREEN"
A romantic subplot involving Djimon Hounsou is similarly tacked on, but the banter between the shop women is a saving grace. Musings on everything from men, modern concepts of beauty, and the best way to serve catfish lend a fresh and funny feel to an otherwise stale set-up. As Gina's straight-talking employee, Alfre Woodard is memorable, but Latifah is perfectly poised in the starring role. Her brashness ("Is it because I'm buh-lack!?") is tempered by an easy radiance that fills the screen and means that Beauty Shop just about cuts it.