A scene from 'Blow Dry'
Courtesy Photo
** stars 100 minutes | Rated: R
Opened: Wednesday, March 7, 2001
Directed by Paddy Brethnach

Starring Alan Rickman, Natasha Richardson, Rachel Griffiths, Josh Hartnett, Rachel Leigh Cook, Bill Nighy, Warren Clarke, Rosemary Harris, Hugh Bonneville, Heidi Klum, Peter McDonald, Michael McElhatton


The kind of movie you stumble across on a Saturday afternoon on cable and stop just because you recognize a face. Do that instead of renting.

   VIDEO RELEASE: 08.14.2001


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Clichés, forced quirkiness, maudlin subplot outpace laughs in coiffeur comedy 'Blow Dry'

By Rob Blackwelder

"Blow Dry" is a leaden British dramedy about an estranged family of hairdressers reconciling when a big coiffeur competition comes to their small town. Like "The Big Tease" -- a similarly themed English mockumentary that came out last year, delaying the release of this one -- its laughs come mostly from tired flamboyancy stereotypes.

Hairdressers with over-styled, out-of-date dos and David Copperfield-like showmanship bite each other's backs to win what is apparently a prestigious award for clever and speedy hair cutting. Meanwhile a sad-sack local barber (Alan Rickman) enters the competition with his son (Josh Hartnett, "The Virgin Suicides") to face down his former salon partner (Bill Nighy), now the nation's star hairdresser and the dirty-tricking front-runner in the contest.

Besides suffering from the same problems "The Big Tease" had -- basically that it's a cliché-riddled underdog sports movie with a dye job and a limp wrist -- "Blow Dry" is also saddled with a maudlin, comedy-antidote subplot about Rickman's estranged lesbian ex-wife (Natasha Richardson), who is bravely dying of cancer 10 years after leaving him for his hair model (a criminally under-used Rachel Griffiths). Brought together again by the competition, everybody gets busy forgiving.

Some of the film's good laughs stem from the fact that Hartnett (doing a surprising spot-on English accent) styles hair for the local funeral home. Trying to romance the daughter (Rachel Leigh Cook) of the cheating big shot -- who apparently hasn't inherited her father's skills with scissors and dye -- Hartnett helps her practice her coloring technique on a few corpses.

But despite good (if overly earnest) performances by a talented cast, for every witticism in the picture there's at least one lame stereotype, at least one forced attempt to showcase the adorably quirky townsfolk and at least one unnecessarily somber moment that makes "Blow Dry" feel like some kind of vague message movie.

Some draft of the screenplay was written by Simon Beaufoy of "Full Monty" fame, but how much he's to blame is unclear. His cryptic credit reads "Based on the screenplay 'Never Better' by Simon Beaufoy" -- the vagueness of which is, by itself, pretty telling.

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