“On your toes boy! Balance shift feel it!” Never would one guess that this line comes from a father coaching his son on how to style hair. That”s right folks. How to style hair. Paddy Breathnach (“The Full Monty”) brings us “Blow Dry,” a story of a broken family that manages to pull it all together through their cohesive effort at winning the National Hairdressing Championships in Yorkshire, England.

Paul Wong
The cast of “”Blow Dry”” search high and low for a movie that doesn”t suck.<br><br>Courtesy of Miramax Films

So who”s going to win the Silver Scissors Trophy? However silly the theme may sound, the audience soon finds itself lost in the flurry of highlights, extensions, and hairspray. A refreshing change, “Blow Dry” provides one with subtle British humor and some fascinating hairdos. Unfortunately, many flaws stifle the film”s wonderful potential. With such a fun theme and some fine acting talent, it”s a shame “Blow Dry” just couldn”t pull it off. The plot is overdone. It just can”t attain the right style too much hairspray and some split ends simply make it lose its flair, and although it grazes the edges of satisfaction, it simply goes limp.

Shelley (Natasha Richardson) and her girlfriend Sandra (Rachel Griffiths), who work at the local barbershop “The Cut Above,” decide to enter the competition. Shelley eventually convinces her ex-husband and co-worker Phil (Alan Rickman) and her son Brian to join, for they too do hair. Phil, however, has a hard time with this, since Shelley and Phil divorced years ago because Shelley fell in love with Sandra.

This entanglement seems sufficient for a film lasting only one hour and ten minutes. However, the focus of the story shifts all over the place, ignoring important relationships and involving itself in many pointless subplots. The acting is great, thus making the story, however fabricated and tedious, tolerable and even enjoyable. But it just tries too hard to be something it”s not. It provides some laughs, but that”s about it.

There are several conflicts in the story, opening up a difficult task of bringing them together successfully in the end. First, Phil”s rival Ray (Bill Nighy) of Raymond Robinson”s Hair Studio, is apparently cheating in the contest. One of his buddies breaks the combs right before round one, allowing him to have more time to work his model”s “do. Speaking of models, Ray”s hair model, Christina (Rachael Leigh Cook, “She”s All That”) soon finds out about his cheating behavior. Okay, so this conflict fits in the story fairly well. It would be nice to stop here.

But wait this is just the beginning. Brian falls in love with Christina and Christina soon learns that Brian has been getting some extra hairstyling practice in by working on dead people”s hair at the morgue where he works. Are these details necessary? What ever happened to the story of Shelley and her apparently failed marriage? Nevertheless, the story continues along, leaving the audience bewildered.

The best part of “Blow Dry” is definitely the last round of the competition, referred to as “The Total Look.” Some of the hairstyles are really far out and if you care about hair or not, the dramatization of this crucial competition is very entertaining. A befuddling ending, however, outweighs the fun. (Note: Don”t read on if you don”t want to know the ending.)

We soon find out that Shelley has had cancer for the past 10 years and has kept it a secret from everyone, including Sandra. She was undergoing extensive chemotherapy and was wearing a wig. Perhaps it was her last wish to partake in the championships with her family, amidst the underlying tension between them all. This conclusion simply fails to have an effect on the viewer. Chemotherapy just doesn”t fit into the equation. It takes away any energy the audience might have left after following numerous silly subplots and it leaves the viewer thinking “Huh? I thought this movie was about hair.”

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