After the huge success of Barbershop, there was a mad dash to put out a female version that captured the bold talk and sense of community at an African-American beauty salon. Unfortunately for Brown—who wrote Barbershop and takes on directing duties for his follow-up screenplay—another film nabbed the title Beauty Shop (the better to remind people of Barbershop) and made it to the screen before he did. That means The Salon feels like a lesser remake of an okay film.
Jenny (Fox) runs a beauty shop (or should we say salon?) staffed by a variety pack of stylists: the big and proud Lashaunna (Whitley), gold-digger Trina (Hicks), flaming gay queen D.D. (Wilson) and abused wife Brenda (Calhoun). Jenny hasn’t told her staff, but the city is using eminent domain to take the building, unless a city lawyer (Henson) can help her find a way around it. (He’s got an obvious conflict of interest, but ethics don’t mean much when Fox asks for help…) The script toggles between sassy interchanges among the staff and customers and the more serious scenes of Fox worrying about the business. Along the way, we get sharp commentaries on issues like interracial dating, black men’s homophobia and the merits of whuppin’ as a parenting strategy. Brown’s rhythms are pretty jerky, with the mood turning on a dime and then turning again.