Hair to Die For

The Big Tease

La crème de la coiffure! A mock documentary about, of all things, a Scottish hairdresser who travels to America to compete in an international hairstyling tournament, The Big Tease is a mildly amusing romp that benefits enormously from an ingratiating performance by Scottish actor Craig Ferguson, who also co-wrote the film. He plays Crawford Mackenzie, an irrepressible optimist from Glasgow who is invited to Los Angeles to take part in the World Freestyle Hairdressing Championship sponsored by something called the World International Hairdressing Federation. He is accompanied on the journey by a dour documentary filmmaker and his crew, who record every facet of the trip.

Only after Mackenzie has checked into the prestigious Century Plaza Hotel and run up a considerable tab does he learn that he has not been summoned to L.A. to compete in the prestigious Hair-Off but, rather, to sit in the audience as a lowly spectator with hundreds of other viewers. And, no, the World Hair Federation is not paying for his expenses.

Momentarily disheartened, he quickly recovers and sets out to convince the powers that be to let him into the contest. The rest of the film charts his bumpy road, which includes a power lunch at a swank Beverly Hills eatery (where Drew Carey, on whose TV show Ferguson has a regular spot, makes a cameo appearance), getting shot at by drug dealers, finding himself arrested by the police, and generally being kicked around by Tinseltown. Veteran stage actress Frances Fisher portrays a snotty publicist whom Mackenzie wins over, while David Rasche plays an arrogant competitor with the self-reverential name of Stig and a mane of coarse, dry hair, which needs the attention of a good stylist.

Beauty parlors constitute alien territory for a lot of people, and those of us who enter salons with the same frequency and enthusiasm that we reserve for the dentist will find the idea of a parody about hairdressers a bit strange and also somewhat redundant. The Big Tease, however, just happens to be about hairdressers. More than anything it is an energetic, unsophisticated comedy about someone determined to make his dream come true. In this particular case, the hero makes an unfamiliar pond his own little watering hole, without ever losing his innocence or modesty.

Oddly enough the screenplay's funniest lines were met by stony silence from the preview audience, while only mildly amusing gags were greeted with uproarious laughter. Apparently not many viewers knew who Red Adair is, which accounts for one joke falling flat.

Ferguson proves an extremely likable presence who ably carries the picture. Unlike many comic actors, he doesn't rely on shtick, and he doesn't seem narcissistically amused by his own antics. The comedy is somewhat broad but, then, it's a fairy tale about the realization of one man's dreams. Why it has received an R rating is unclear; a PG-13 certainly would have sufficed.

 
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