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It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that "The Salon" is really just "Barbershop" on estrogen. Like that earlier prototype, "The Salon" - which takes place in a Baltimore beauty parlor run by the beautiful Vivica A. Fox - is essentially a freeform series of conversations held together by the flimsiest of plot devices (in this one, an unfeeling bureaucracy wants to tear down the shop to make way for a parking lot). Unfortunately, "The Salon" is a pretty wan imitation of the original, lacking the stinging wit and biting social commentary that made "Barbershop" such a crossover success in its time.
While there is a certain liveliness to the verbal jousting and a notable energy in most of the performances, the comic banter often comes across as catty and mean-spirited rather than funny and insightful. The screenplay by Mark Brown (adapted from the stage play by Shelley Garrett) works overtime trying to be clever and smart about race relations, sexual issues, and life in the African American community, but it really isn't telling us anything we haven't heard countless times before in films on those same topics. Moreover, the characters themselves often verge on the stereotypical (with the prancing gay hair stylist as probably the most egregious and offensive example). And to top it all off, the film is saddled with an ending that is, perhaps, the worst case of a deus ex machina in any movie in recent memory.
There are indeed some genuinely touching scenes embedded in all the brazen one-liners and zingers, and there are a few laugh-out-loud moments when the sassiness and sarcasm manage to hit the comic bull's-eye at which the writer is aiming. But more often than not, the humor misses its mark and falls harmlessly onto the hair-covered floor.
The actors give their all to the material and it really isn't their fault that the movie itself fails to catch fire. Even brief appearances by Garrett Morris and Terence Howard aren't enough to lift it out of the doldrums.
With "The Salon," the ladies finally get the chance to have their say, but they're going to have to do a whole lot better than a second-rate, distaff copy of "Barbershop" if they ever hope to get their message across.
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