When ordered to fire a long-time janitor named Stavi (Luis Avalos) Steve Barker (Johnny Knoxville) softens the blow by hiring him to mow the lawn at his apartment complex. Steve didn't provide him with health insurance so Stavi naturally loses a few fingers in a mowing accident and now it'll cost thousands to save the digits. What's a guy to do? Why of course fix the Special Olympics—a suggestion of Steve's degenerate uncle Gary (Brian Cox) who's also in the financial dumps. Former track star Steve reluctantly goes along with the scam and competes in the Special Olympics. His competitors are quick to pick up on his ruse but they decide to help him after Steve explains his motive. He must also try not to disappoint Lynn (Katherine Heigl) the beautiful volunteer who doesn't know of his real identity. What's a guy to do? Take the high road of course. Certainly Knoxville—of Jackass infamy and debauchery—would have no moral trepidation about headlining offensive exploitative crap like The Ringer but stardom beckons him if he only he stops aiming so damn low! His performance here was probably not as easy as it'd seem but it's reasonable to think that Jackass stunts involving a bottle of absinthe and some paper cuts to the cornea quickly eliminated any butterflies. What Knoxville has in spades is that rare charisma to prevent him from ever looking uncool. Then there's Cox the latest revered journeyman to sell his soul on the cheap for a role completely beneath him. Mostly disabled actors round out the cast uttering any and all funny lines but there's something fundamentally wrong when the audience erupts in laughter before the lines are even delivered. Though the Farrelly brothers—directors of There's Something About Mary and Dumb & Dumber--only acted as executive producers of The Ringer their lowbrow stamp is smeared all over. Directing chores were handed over to Barry Blaustein prolific writer of comedies like Coming to America making his feature directorial debut. The Ringer delivers on its promise of frat-dude humor and Blaustein certainly knows how to make his leading man shine—but it does so in cheap sophomoric ways.
September 13, 2002 6:39am EST
"Calvin I need a haircut. Like how you did to Ronnie last week: A little off the top long in the back but not quite a shag slope to the left like Gumby Eddie Munster in the front a lil' Wyclef on the right..." Just a typical day at the barbershop. A stressed-out father-to-be Calvin (Ice Cube) inherits his father's shop on the south side of Chicago where business is not exactly booming. In a moment of weakness Calvin sells the business to a sleazy neighborhood loan shark who wants to turn the place into a strip club. Calvin regrets the deal the moment he makes it realizing that his shop is more than a place for haircuts; it's a place where people meet hang out and talk politics or current events a family legacy important to both the community and the people who work there. Calvin tries to renege on the deal but it's too late. He must now find a way to save the barbershop or break the news to his staff. There is also a story line involving two buffoons who steal an ATM and spend the entire film trying to either hide it or break into it. Barbershop is not a groundbreaking comedy but it's sweet and relatable and definitely has some good knee-slapping moments.
With his powerful performance as Doughboy in the 1991 drama Boyz N the Hood Ice Cube proved he was a force to be reckoned with. More than a decade after his big screen debut Ice Cube shows a gentler softer side as Calvin in Barbershop. Calvin for example is the type of guy who at one point asks one of his employees to stop cussing. He does not revel in the spotlight here but instead is quite content taking the back seat and letting the ensemble cast do their thing. Cedric the Entertainer (Serving Sara) actually steals the show as Eddie one of Calvin's barbers who never actually cuts any hair: his specialty is the lost art of the straight-razor shave. Cedric gets into character--all the way down to Eddie's voice--and launches into one funny diatribe after another. Anthony Anderson also churns out a hilarious performance as JD the bungling ATM thief. If you thought he was funny in Me Myself and Irene Big Momma's House and Two Can Play That Game you will like him even more now. Also worth mentioning are Eve Sean Patrick Thomas Troy Garity Michael Ealy Leonard Earl Howze and Keith David all of whom turn out really great performances.
In his big-screen directorial debut Tim Story does a great job recreating an authentic old-school inner-city barbershop. The fact that producers Robert Teitel and George Tillman Jr. insisted on shooting the film in Chicago in the thick of winter only adds to the film's authenticity. The dingy walls are decorated with African-American art and photos of historical figures and locals who frequent the shop. The staff bickers about things that takes place in any work environment including who ate whose lunch out of the fridge. The characters are all well developed and the cast makes the film work in part because we all have someone similar to them in our lives. There is the cocky guy who thinks he's better than everyone the white guy who think he's black and the friend who just can't bring herself to dump her cheating boyfriend. But despite all their infighting the clients and staff have created a sort of dysfunctional family that works and the barbershop is the backdrop for this familial microcosm. Keep an eye out for some of the shop's customers who include the Chicago Bull's Jalen Rose former Chicago Bear Shaun Gayle and probably a lot more I can't name.