It’s been 45 years since Peter Sellers was unleashed as the bumbling Inspector Clouseau in the delicious Pink Panther. That 1963 film spawned numerous sequels and cartoons and in 2006 the baton was passed to Steve Martin -- who hatched a worldwide hit with his version of the French detective. In this meandering gag-laden sequel Martin is assigned to join a team of other famed international detectives and crime wizards to crack a case where priceless treasures are being stolen around the globe including of course the iconic Pink Panther diamond. Again aiding Clouseau in his own cause are his partner Panton (Jean Reno) and Nicole (Emily Mortimer) for whom he still has those amorous feelings. Let’s face it no one could top Sellers in this role and it’s wise that Martin doesn’t really try instead taking the character more toward The Jerk. Whether inadvertently burning restaurants down to the ground juggling wine bottles (in a particularly lame sequence) mangling the English language imitating the Pope or spouting hopelessly politically incorrect bon mots like calling an Asian colleague “my little yellow friend ” Martin plays it broadly and safely. As the quartet of international detectives brought in to solve the case with Clouseau Andy Garcia Alfred Molina Yuki Matsuzaki and gorgeous Aishwarya Rai Bachchan do everything they can to keep from being totally upstaged by Martin’s nonstop antics but it ain’t easy for any of them. Also of note: John Cleese takes Kevin Kline's place as Clouseau’s exasperated boss and Lily Tomlin Martin’s All of Me co-star are reunited here to teach him properly correct social etiquette. With a cast of capable comic veterans like this all any director would have to do is point the camera and make sure it’s in focus. And that seems to be ALL Dutch helmer Harald Zwart (Agent Cody Banks) has done. The PP template has been dumbed down to appeal to young kids and despite its picaresque Paris and Rome locations this comes off as surprisingly flat with a lot of comic possibility left twisting in the wind.
You remember Gina (Queen Latifah) from Barbershop 2? She's the one who worked at a beauty shop next door to the barbershop and gave Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer) all kinds of grief. In Beauty Shop the widowed Gina has moved from Chicago to Atlanta so her daughter can attend a prestigious music school. With scissors in hand Gina quickly becomes the most sought-after stylist at a chic-chic salon. Unfortunately the guy who runs it is a superficial egotistical jerk named Jorge (pronounced "Hor-eh") (Kevin Bacon) who tosses his weight--and his stringy hair--around a lot. Obviously the headstrong Gina isn't going to stand for that nonsense for very long. She eventually tells him off and storms out to open her own shop taking a few choice clients with her. And what a shop it is! The ever-creative and determined Gina stocks it with her own hair products or "hair crack" as it's lovingly referred to a cappuccino maker and a myriad of colorful employees who also aren't afraid to speak their minds. So grab a seat under the hairdryer and watch how these women get busy.
Beauty Shop also has a myriad of animated performers. Everyone seems to be having a great time except maybe the Queen Bee herself. In Barbershop 2 Latifah's Gina got to be one of those full-of-life supporting players sparring with Cedric the Entertainer and delivering some of the film's better moments. Now that the actress has to carry the film she also has to play it straight most of the time which doesn't suit her quite as well as it did for Ice Cube. But she still manages to infuse her own particular brand of charm every once in awhile when the film warrants it. The rest of the cast keep things light and lively especially the over-the-top Bacon who plays Jorge as a cross between one of those pretentious hair salon owners we all know and a bit player in a bad disco movie complete with a faux Austrian accent and gold chains. It's good to see him have some fun. It's also good to see Alfre Woodard who plays one of the shop's more eccentric hairdressers wearing low-cut leopard prints and spouting poetry by Maya Angelou. Also making an impression are Alicia Silverstone as the token white girl in the salon who eventually gets a ghetto makeover; and Keisha Knight Pulliam all grown up from playing little Rudy Huxtable on The Cosby Show as Gina's lackadaisical sister-in-law.
Initially it's fun to see the same Barbershop dynamics applied to Beauty Shop this time from a woman's point of view. Director Bille Woodruff (Honey) does a nice job setting up all the different personalities in the shop from the sardonic to the bubbly to the unconventional as the women talk about anything from bikini waxes to men crying during sex to interracial love. It's amusing and will hit home for many of the women in the audience but you'll soon realize Beauty Shop's script is far more tame and predictable than outrageous. Basically Beauty Shop doesn't have an Eddie character which is what makes the Barbershops work so well. He's there to say the most outlandish--and sometimes offensive--things that make people stop think and then laugh their butts off. Beauty Shop only touches upon social and cultural differences never really digging in deep and rarely making you laugh out loud.