The miraculous thing about

The Salon

- a distaff

Barber Shop

adapted from the Shelley Garrett play,

Beauty Shop -

is that customers actually emerge with new dos.

That's because the amount of talking, fighting and fretting going on in this storefront shop is endless: debates about child rearing and corporal punishment, about homophobia and gay rights, about African American achievements in science and history, about marriage, adultery, spousal abuse, bling.

The Salon is written and directed by Mark Brown, who wrote Barbershop, Barbershop 2 and now seems intent on cornering the African American hair and beauty market. Set in a Baltimore hood populated by whores and pimps, by teen thugs and a homeless drunk who provides (arguably) comic relief, The Salon stars the elegant Vivica A. Fox as Jenny, a single mom and salon proprietress.

Her staff includes a large and loquacious stylist (Kym Whitley); an outrageous gay (De'Angelo Wilson); a single gal (Taral Hicks) who trades sex for diamonds; a straight guy; a sad, moody type, and a Korean manicurist who drops by for ethnic stereotyping.

Customers run the gamut, too, and even include one foxy white girl (Brooke Burns) who comes in for corn rows and a lecture about keeping her hands off black men. Well, she didn't come in for the lecture, but she gets it.

Full of speechifying and sass - and boasting two brief scenes with Terrence Howard as a jerk - The Salon was shot several years ago, and feels like it. (Dated reference: Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez as an item.) For drama, Jenny has to deal with the city's trying to shut her business down to put up a parking lot. Enter a handsome, Armani-suited attorney (Darrin Henson), representing the Parking Authority. Any idea where that relationship's going to go? But despite all the stock characters and scenarios, Fox and company manage to bring things to life. And cut some hair.

The Salon **1/2 (out of four stars)

Written and directed by Mark Brown, adapted from Shelley Garrett's play "Beauty Shop." Distributed by Fox Rhythm. With Vivica A. Fox, Kym Whitley, and Monica Calhoun.

Running time: 1 hour, 32 mins.

Parent's guide: PG-13 (profanity, adult themes).

Playing at: At area theaters.EndText