BARBERSHOP-- Ice Cube seems to be waging a campaign to snatch the Entertainer tag from his Barbershop co-star, Cedric. And by my estimation, there's no real contest. In fact, Cube is mainly competing against himself. Who would have guessed that the rapper from NWA and his own solo fame would have gone on to become the movie hyphenate that he is. As writer-director-star, the lighter side of his filmography includes the Friday series, The Players' Club, All About the Benjamins and Ghosts of Mars. But it would be a shame to not mention his meatier work in Boyz N the Hood and Three Kings.
Barbershop finds Cube mixing up laughs and life lessons with Cedric, Eve and Sean Patrick Thomas as just a few of the neighborhood barbers who trade custom cuts and wicked barbs until this little community is threatened by a local loan shark (Keith David) who buys the place and plans to convert it into a sleazy gentlemen's club. There's not a single surprise in the whole movie, but the relaxed story settles into a enjoyable groove. Let Will Smith have his Independence Day; I'd rather spend the other 364 hanging with Cube. -- tt clinkscales (Rated PG-13.)
CityBeat grade: B
STEALING HARVARD-- All the guy wants to do is send his niece to Harvard. Is a little petty burglary and breaking-and-entering such a big deal? Stealing Harvard follows John (Jason Lee) and Duff (Tom Green), two middleclass morons (albeit altruistic morons), during their brief lives of crime. Kids in the Hall alum Bruce McCulloch directs what could be described as this year's Dude, Where's My Car. Here's hoping the film is a tad more thoughtful than its leading men. -- RP (Rated PG-13.)
SWIMFAN-- As a business decision, film studios' idea of taking tried-and-true adult plots and shoehorning them into MTV-generation movies isn't a bad one. But that doesn't mean these films will be fun to watch. Take Swimfan. It is, unapologetically, Fatal Attraction set in high school. Not that the target demo knows this. They were not yet standing upright when the Adrian Lyne classic hit the screens. As with most reproductions, something was lost in the update. I'd venture to say it's a glaring lack of intelligence. Why make the character of Madison Belle (Erika Christiansen) weird and smarmy right from the start? Go back to the source. Glenn Close as Alex Forrest was fairly charismatic from the outset. It allowed us to believe that Michael Douglas' character would risk so much to sleep with her. In Swimfan, we have no idea what Ben Cronin (Jesse Bradford) sees in Madison. All thrillers will walk the line of believability too. Fatal Attraction certainly did at the end. But Swimfan asks us to suspend disbelief a little too much, a little too early on. Doing so just zaps viewers right out of the moment. -- RP (Rated PG-13.)
CityBeat grade: D