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SLEEPING 'BEAUTY'
NOT MUCH PLOT, BUT QUEEN LATIFAH HAS HER SHARE OF FUN

BEAUTY SHOP ***

STARRING: Queen Latifah, Alicia Silverstone, Djimon Hounsou

DIRECTOR: Bille Woodruff

RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes

RATING: PG-13 for sexual material, language and brief drug references

THE LOWDOWN: A cutting-edge hairdresser leaves a posh salon and opens a shop of her own.

"Beauty Shop" sets a new record for usage of the phrase, "Oh, no she di-ent."

Starring the endlessly likable Queen Latifah, the force behind "Beauty Shop" is girlfriend power. Mostly, it's an excuse for Latifah and a bunch of pals to chew the fat while cutting heads in Latifah's salon. The movie is so friendly and good-natured that there's no conflict for the first 90 minutes. Basically, it's what-good-thing-can-happen-next-to-Latifah, what with her own shop, as well as family and the attention of Djimon Hounsou, possibly the world's handsomest next-door-neighbor-who's-also-a-gifted-electrician.

Eventually, a little conflict develops. A rival shop owner -- Kevin Bacon with a carcinogenic tan, hair that has gone unwashed since cosmetology school and a hilarious Austrian accent -- tries to screw things up for Latifah, and a customer (Mena Suvari, bad) gets difficult. But director Bille Woodruff is so concerned about not harshing Latifah's deal that he settles the conflicts almost before they appear.

"Beauty Shop" isn't as funny as the "Barbershop" movies, of which it's a spinoff, but it has the same warmth and sense of community they had, and it has Latifah. "I'm a phenomenal woman," she says at one point.

The movie agrees, and so will you.

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