Directed by Tim Story, starring Ice Cube, Anthony Anderson, Cedric the Entertainer, Sean Patrick Thomas, Eve, Troy Garity, Michael Ealy, Leonard Howze, Keith David.

Director Tim Story's debut, 'Barbershop' is about the characters that work at and hang out in a neighbourhood hair-cutting establishment. Although described as an ensemble comedy, it manages to waste a quality cast on a wafer-thin plot with one-liners that are too few and far between to stage a rescue mission.

The film runs the length of an eventful day in the life of barbershop owner Calvin Palmer (Ice Cube). Although he inherited the shop from his father, Calvin is anxious to get rid of it and start up his own business. He sells up to a local loan shark, the unctuous Mr Wallis (David), who promises to retain the shop and the cutters just the way they've always been. Wallis oozes false bonhomie until he gets the deal then he turns on Calvin, threatening to turn the shop into a "gentleman's club" - unless he's paid double the original sale price.

While Calvin spends a large chunk of the day moping around and trying to figure out what to do, the cutters and customers of the shop take to the floor. It's the barbershop that time forgot, full of old-fashioned chairs, yellowing photos, populated by elderly chequer players and clichés - but no mention of drugs, gangs or drive-by shootings despite its location in a run-down Chicago neighbourhood. The day passes - slowly - with a series of character-driven subplots; ex-con Ricky (Ealy) tries to keep on the straight and narrow, the gentle Pablo Neruda-loving Dinka (Howze) wants to woo Terri (rapper Eve), who in turn is trying to unsuccessfully dump her two-timing boyfriend, and a pair of thieves (to the most annoying incidental music - ever) work on breaking into an ATM machine.

So far, so inconsequential. Where 'Barbershop' does score, however, is in having Cedric the Entertainer as senior cutter Eddie. With a tongue sharper - and more often used - than the scissors at his station, Eddie has an opinion on everything, from the right way to shave a man to civil rights. Scattering his politically incorrect theories like so many hair cuttings, Eddie waxes lyrical on civil rights ("all Rosa Parks did was sit her black ass down!") and two of black America's sacred cows - Rodney King (deserved the beating) and OJ (guilty). Would that the rest of the film had as much vim and verve.

With the camera moving a beat behind the quips and far too little work done in the editing suite, 'Barbershop' feels far longer than its reasonably modest 102-minutes. If you can stay awake throughout, you just might care whether Calvin manages to save his shop or not. If you don't, it will be no great loss.

Caroline Hennessy