Rating: 3 out of 5
Chris Rock hosts this exploration into hair issues in the African-American community, talking to celebrities, experts and hairdressers. What's surprising is that this is such a big issue, although the film isn't much more than entertaining fluff.
The question is who decides what hair is good hair? Most of the black magazines show women with long, straight, silky locks, but this isn't the reality for the readers. Or at least not an easily achievable reality, as it involves lots of product, weaves and wigs. A series of award-winning stylists tackle black hairdos for a living, and the issue of black women's hair has a rather huge impact on their men.
The best thing about Rock is that his mind is so clearly boggled by all of this, just as we'd be, so he asks the questions we'd ask, only in much funnier ways. The key item in any black woman's (and some men's) arsenal is relaxer, which loosens the curls and, as one person notes, makes white people more comfortable. Women call it "creamy crack", because once you use it you can't stop. He even visits Dudley's relaxer factory in North Carolina, heart of a massive hair-product empire.
Even bigger money is found in weave culture (best advice: "You've got to know your weaver!"), so Rock takes a trip to India, to see where the extensions come from. The filmmakers include lots of hilarious old TV footage, including ads about how to beat those afros into submission. And Rock consults with Al Sharpton, whom he calls "the Dalai Lama of Relaxer", and does experiments with a scientist on the chemical burn of a bad perm.
He also makes things more personal by continually referring to his young daughters and the future they face. But this isn't a hugely complicated documentary; it's assembled in a straightforward way that's never satirical or ironic. Personality comes from Rock and the colourful people he talks to. And most of them people are great fun to watch, bursting with humour and creativity. The intensity of the climactic hairdresser competition is jawdropping, and following these flashy competitors would make a great doc on its own.
Facts and Figures
Run time: 96 mins
In Theaters: Thursday 15th April 2010
Box Office USA: $4.1M
Distributed by: Roadside Attractions
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Fresh: 76 Rotten: 5
IMDB: 6.9 / 10
Cast & Crew
Director: Jeff Stilson
Producer: Jenny Hunter, Kevin O'Donnell, Jeff Stilson
Starring: Maya Angelou as Herself, Chris Rock as Himself, Nia Long as Herself, Vanessa Bell Calloway as Herself, Ice-T as Himself, Tanya Crumel as Herself - Hair Battle Contestant, Kevin Kirk as Himself - Hair Battle Contestant, Derek J as Himself - Hair Battle Contestant, Freddie J as Herself - Hair Battle Contestant, Jason Griggers as Himself - Hair Battle Contestant, Marvet Britto as Herself, A'Lelia Bundles as Herself, Sandra 'Pepa' Denton as Herself, Melyssa Ford as Herself, Meagan Good as Herself, Andre Harrell as Himself, Cheryl 'Salt' James as Herself, Sarah Jones as Herself, KRS-One as Himself, Lauren London as Herself, Paul Mooney as Himself, Faheem Najm as Himself / T-Pain, Raven-Symoné as Herself, Salli Richardson-Whitfield as Herself, Al Sharpton as Himself, Tracie Thoms as Herself, Kerry Washington as Herself, Eve as Herself