It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Early in "Beauty Shop," Queen Latifah asks her daughter if her pants make her butt look big. When the answer is "yes," she slaps it and says, "Good!" And means it.
Latifah is profoundly comfortable with herself, and "Beauty Shop" is comfortable with itself. It isn't simply trying to turn up the heat under a "Barbershop" clone, but to be more plausible (not a lot, but a little) in the story of a woman starting her own business. It's more of a human comedy than stand-up or slapstick.
Queen Latifah stars as Gina, recently arrived in Atlanta from Chicago (where she appeared briefly in "Barbershop 2"). She's already the top stylist in an upscale salon run by the improbable Jorge Christophe, a streaked blond self-promoter who keeps Latifah from being the only queen in the movie. Jorge is over the top in every possible way, and you have to blink a couple of times before you realize he's being played by ... Kevin Bacon?
It's very funny work, and it sets up Gina for a big showdown where she walks out on Jorge and starts her own beauty shop. There's nothing terrifically original in the way she finds an old salon, remodels and repaints it, and staffs it with a shampoo girl (Alicia Silverstone) from Jorge's and an array of expert and verbal hairdressers, most notably Miss Josephine (Alfre Woodard) and Darnelle (Keshia Knight Pulliam from "The Cosby Show"). But consider the scene where she applies for a bank loan, and gets it after she shows the loan officer what she should be doing with her hair.