Dream weaver

The inimitable Chris Rock stands in hysterical awe of a follicle battlefield

Good Hair
Studio: Roadside Entertainment
Rated: PG-13
Cast: Chris Rock, Maya Angelou, Marvet Britto, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Rhonda Cowan
Director: Jeff Stilson
WorkNameSort: Good Hair
Our Rating: 4.00

Other people's names might be listed as director and writer (four of them on a documentary!) in the credits of Good Hair ' all former Chris Rock Show alumni ' but the only one that matters is the omnipresent Rock. The comedian produced and co-wrote the film, conducted the on-air interviews, voiced the narration and pimped it on The Oprah Winfrey Show. It's no wonder there is a security force in every city Rock visits in the film; the man is practically the pope whenever he walks into a beauty salon.

It's a quality that makes Rock's befuddled incredulity and Attenborough-like curiosity about the practices of African-American hairstyles, and the people who hand over their paychecks to achieve them, feel hypothetical at best. Although he boasts that his toddler daughters still have their natural hair, Rock is clearly intimate with the inner workings of women getting their hair did. Sometimes he acknowledges as much, gleefully skipping down the path of explanatory lectures on scalp-melting perms, intricate weaves and, of course, relaxer, in service of 'you white people out there.â?� Other times, he seems to accidentally stumble upon horrifying socioethnic atrocities, particularly in India, where the silky, flowing hair so eagerly desired in American black communities is taken in the name of God and profit from unsuspecting Indian people.

Whatever Rock's impetus for exploring the wallet-busting, day-consuming, sometimes chemically dangerous desire of black women to achieve European hair, he's never wanting for laughter. His warm-hearted befuddlement in the face of these proud women ' and the hangdog-faced men who are expected to 'maintainâ?� them ' is consistently light, hilarious and relatable. Even sit-down interviews with celebrities like actress Nia Long, rappers Eve and Salt & Pepa, Maya Angelou and the Rev. Al Sharpton regarding their hair choices range from scoff-worthy (Sharpton's inevitable equation of Euro-hair desire with the shackles of oppression), to scintillatingly shocking (Long's candid admission that weaves inhibit sex quite a bit).

By the film's climax, which concerns an over-the-top national hair-styling contest, a 70-piece marching band and a lingerie-clad barbershop orgy, it barely matters whether or not the action is dramatic; it's riveting simply that this competition actually exists.