Speaking of one-trick ponies, writer/director Mark Brown goes back to the well of hair styling humor that gave us both “Barbershop” and “Barbershop 2: Back in Business” and emerges with “The Salon.” Sounds eerily similar to “Barbershop,” you say? Don’t be silly, “The Salon” is set in the world of female hairstyling, so instead of a group of guys standing around with scissors and offering their opinions on various issues and each other, you have a bunch of women (and a couple men, although one of those is gay so I’m not quite sure how to count him) standing around with scissors and offering their opinions on various issues and each other. They’re mostly women, so it’s a different movie. Get it?
Brown obviously saw a need somewhere for a XX-chromosome equivalent to “Barbershop,” and so we get “The Salon,” in which Vivica A. Fox runs an African-American hair joint in Baltimore. She’s a strong woman, as one would expect in such a film, raising her son by herself and doing battle with the city over their plans to raze her building in order to put up a parking lot. Her staff consists of five stereotypes: including The Gold Digger (Taral Hicks), the Emotionally Abused Girlfriend (Monica Calhoun), the Player (Dondre Whitfield), the Gay Man (De-Angelo Wilson), and The Outspoken Black Woman Who Doesn’t Take S**t from Anyone (Kym Whitley). Throughout the film, they will deal with the overarching plot (saving the salon from demolition) while also tackling each of the stereotypes’ various life problems.
It isn’t as if any of the actors do an especially bad job or anything – Fox is capable enough as the lead, and Whitley and Wilson especially carry themselves quite well – but you can’t help asking yourself, what’s the point? Are there that many more broad topics in need of shallow examination by a Hollywood studio picture? My opinion might have been higher if Brown bothered to bring anything new to his look at women in abusive relationships or homophobia in the black community, but he handles every topic as if he’s afraid to offend anyone. Brenda’s boyfriend is an a*****e, but she’s never in any physical danger, and while D.D. suffers from an anti-gay attack on the street, all that happens is that he gets some eggs thrown at him. I may sound insensitive, but if Brown was planning on including such a well-worn device in his film, maybe he should’ve given it a little more punch.
In the end, Fox has to team up with the opposition, a city lawyer (who, luckily, also happens to be ridiculously attractive) and look for some way to rescue her building. Anyone wondering if they actually do manage to save the day possesses the ideal mindset required to shell out money for a ticket to this.
After “Barbershop,” “Barbershop 2,” and now “The Salon,” Mark Brown is in real danger of running out of ideas. Fortunately for him, the comedy depths of setting a movie at the Pampered Poodle or Kuts 4 Kids have yet to be plumbed. I can hardly wait.