Blow Dry Needs More Style

Friday, March 9th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Blow Dry couldn't telegraph its moves more clearly if it came with a person standing down front shouting out what's going to happen next.

Starring Alan Rickman, Natasha Richardson, Rachel Griffiths, Rachael Leigh Cook, Josh Hartnett, Bill Nighy and Heidi Klum. Directed by Paddy Breathnach. Rated R (language, brief nudity).
Only the most inexperienced moviegoer wouldn't have this mild bit of British farce figured out in the first five or 10 minutes.

From there, then, it's up to spirited performances or high-caliber directing to keep you interested. (It's not like anyone really thought Rocky was going to lose to Apollo Creed.)

But Blow Dry comes up lacking in each of those areas, a surprise considering the cast.

Alan Rickman plays Phil, a barber in the small town of Keighly, where the British Hair Federation has announced it will hold its annual championship.

He's been "off the circuit" ever since his hair model, Sandra (Rachel Griffiths), ran off with his wife the night before the last round of the contest 10 years ago.

But now that the big show is coming to their little town, his estranged wife, Shelley (Natasha Richardson), sees a chance for her; Phil; their son, Brian (Josh Hartnett); and Sandra to patch things up and win the coveted Silver Scissors Trophy.

Ah, but there's evil afoot. Ray, Phil's arch-nemesis, is pulling all sorts of dirty tricks to ensure victory. Winning his third championship would mean he could keep the trophy, you see.

Meanwhile, we learn that Shelley has cancer (apparently incurable); Brian is busy wooing Ray's daughter, who's visiting from Minneapolis to model for her dad.

For someone dying of cancer, though, Ms. Richardson looks radiantly beautiful, while Mr. Rickman acts as though he just wants it all to end.

Director Paddy Breathnach is clearly shooting here for the same kind of British charm that carried such films as Brassed Off and The Full Monty.

But those films were centered on serious economic issues. Here, we just have a small hamlet overrun by bizarre, overly pierced hairdressers vying for a meaningless prize.

Blow Dry has a few funny moments, most notably a dead great uncle's newly spiked coiffure. Even there, however, Mr. Breathnach fails to supply a satisfying pay-off.

He made his biggest mistake, though, in not giving the town and its residents more of an identity. Our only conduit into the town's mentality is the clownish mayor, who seems to be the only person excited about the big event.

More interaction involving the hairdressers and the townspeople, along with the deletion of one or two meaningless side plots, might have given Blow Dry more body.