In Barbershop, his directorial debut, Tim Story appeals to our desire for a community and a place "where everybody knows your name." Many Film Forum readers have seen favorite friendly neighborhood hangouts replaced by impersonal, corporate-run, cookie-cutter establishments. The disappearance of such warm, human enterprises makes Barbershop an attractive setting. This strategy has worked well for such successful television sitcoms as Friends and Cheers. More recently, the hit comedy fable Chocolat focused on a small community and its favorite hangout. This approach seems to be working for Story and his talented cast, which includes Ice Cube, Cedrick the Entertainer, Sean Patrick Thomas, Anthony Anderson, and Troy Garity.

The film's story develops on Chicago's South Side. Calvin (Cube) inherits a barbershop from his father, but lacks enthusiasm for the work. After he sells the business, he struggles with guilt and an increasing understanding of what the place meant to his father and to the neighborhood. There's more to it than cutting hair. The shop just might be a sort of cornerstone of their community. A team of talkative barbers shoots the breeze while they wait for customers, covering all manner of community scandals and dramas. Their conversation is like an art form. Their personalities are big and expressive. Humor lightens every heavy subject. There, folks can find counsel, friendship, and even a second chance.

Religious media critics respond to this week's box office champ in a variety of ways. Some are pleased by the lessons and delight in spending time with these comic personalities. Others (Preview, for example) disregard the film due to the vulgar language of the characters, even though such speech reflects the ...

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