“Blow Dry” makes me sigh wearily. Movies about quirky small-village folks in the British Isles have already reached their zenith of effectiveness — “Waking Ned Devine” and “Saving Grace” being two fine examples — and are now on the downturn. “You-can-do-it” comedies like “The Full Monty” and “Billy Elliot” have displayed profundity and exuberance.
So what’s left? “Blow Dry,” which has characters who are only mildly quirky and whose dreams in life are not especially inspiring or funny. Put bluntly, “Blow Dry” blows.
Predictable and bland, the film tells of a little town that gets to host the annual British hairdressing competition. No one’s very excited except for the mayor, until a local quasi-salon (their main activity is trimming the pates of dead people before their funerals) decides to enter the contest. Now there’s a local team to root for! Hurrah!
Except it’s not much of a team. There’s a hairdresser named Phil (Alan Rickman) whose son Brian (Josh Hartnett) is learning the family trade while having the hots for Christina (Rachel Leigh Cook), who is the daughter of the snively competition (Bill Nighy). Then there’s Phil’s ex-wife Shelley (Natasha Richardson), who left Phil to become a lesbian and live with Sandra (Rachel Griffiths) and who is now dying of cancer.
This rag-tag group has to come together if their town is to earn its notoriety, and Phil’s ex-wife’s lover must become his hair model in the contest. You can imagine where it goes from there, and you’d probably be right on every count.
“Blow Dry” has amusing moments, particularly with a campy Bill Nighy as the bad guy. Richardson’s illness stuff is just maudlin, though, and any film that is this unsure of its own attitude — comedy? drama? something else? — is bound to get awkward.
The script is by Simon Beaufoy, who also wrote “The Full Monty.” Lightning may strike again for him, but this one is a miss.
C- (; )