One indicator that "The Salon" has been in the can awhile is present-tense dialogue about the Ben Affleck-Jennifer Lopez romance. Another is Terrence Howard's one-dimensional role as a mechanic who treats his hairstylist girlfriend poorly.
Howard shows up for just a few minutes in "The Salon," which was made before he hit it big with "Hustle & Flow." This film played the 2005 Sundance Film Festival - placing it, on the follicle-cinema timeline, somewhere between "Barbershop 2" and "Beauty Shop."
Even jokes that aren't topical seem stale in "The Salon," written and directed by Mark Brown (a writer and producer of the "Barbershop" films) from a play by Shelly Garrett. Many revolve around D.D., a stereotypically written gay male hairdresser stereotypically played by De'Angelo Wilson. His interaction with a proudly straight male stylist (Dondre Whitfield) is tired, and isn't made less so because the film includes a more serious conversation about homophobia.
Vivica A. Fox fills the Ice Cube-Queen Latifah spot as Jenny, the beleaguered proprietor of a Baltimore salon. She's trying to keep the shop afloat while everyone around her gabs and causes trouble. The government wants to demolish the salon in favor of a parking lot.
The government is represented by Michael (Darrin Henson), who is good-looking in a generic way. In this shop full of busybodies, however, generic is enough to inspire everyone to stop and stare.
Michael only has eyes for Jenny, the classiest act in the shop, and Fox's solid presence here makes you wish she would get starring roles in a better class of films. "The Salon" rarely inspires even chuckles, much less the belly laughs generated by the "Barbershop" movies and even by the hit-and-miss "Beauty Shop."
It comes closest during a scene in which Jenny and the stylists debate the issue of spanking. Brown's other attempts to be "controversial" play as either dated or plain distasteful. "The Salon" shows true ingenuity in just one regard: the means by which Jenny finds a possible way to save the salon. *
Produced by Mark Brown, Carl Craig, Vivica A. Fox and Lita Richardson, written and directed by Mark Brown, based on a play by Shelly Garrett, distributed by Fox Rhythm.