It’s been 14 years since Barbershop 2: Back in Business, a movie that was decent, but not remotely as good as the first. Calvin (Ice Cube) is still running the barbershop he inherited from his father while he and his wife (Jazsmin Lewis) raise their teenage son (Michael Rainey Jr.) on the dangerous southside of Chicago. Like before, the film features an ensemble cast of characters, some old and some new. Eve returns as volatile barber, Terri, although she’s traded in Michael Ealy for Common as a love interest. Cedric the Entertainer also returns as Eddie, the wise-cracking older statesmen of the shop who rarely ever actually cuts hair. Other characters from the older films (Sean Patrick Thomas, Troy Garity) are little more than cameos.
There are a bunch of refreshing new faces in the mix this time around. Regina Hall stars as Angie, Calvin’s partner who runs the beauty parlor half of the shop. Along with her are feminist, Bree (Margot Bingham), and Draya (Nicki Minaj) who seems hell bent on stealing Rashad (Common) from his wife (Eve). Rounding out the comedic cast are Lamorne Morris as black nerd, Jerrod, Utkarsh Ambudkar as token foreigner, Raja, Deon Cole as Dante, the customer who never leaves, and J.B. Smoove as Barbershop bootlegger, ‘One-Stop’.
On the surface it would seem as if there are too many characters crammed into the shop this time around, but the film actually does a more than amiable job giving each character their time to shine. Whether it’s chemistry or comedic timing, this Barbershop feels as funny and charming as the original from the moment we first step in. Even Nicki Minaj, who is clearly the odd ball on the acting front, manages to slip in more than a few heavy laughs to justify her presence. The lone exception is Anthony Anderson who reprises his role as hustler, AJ, from the first film. Not only does his character provide few, if any, comedic moments, but his presence is completely irrelevant to the overall story.
Speaking of the overall story, like the original Barbershop, this film seeks to be both entertaining and thought provoking. Woven between the jokes are important questions raised about street violence, misogyny, and relationships, all of which are relevant to the black community. And while the film doesn’t actually get around to answering many of these questions, they do manage to get people thinking, and there’s merit in that, at least in a comedy.
The dramatic moments don’t always hit. One particular scene meant to be the film’s most dramatic, falls somewhat flat due to the character involved not being fleshed out enough. And sometimes, the film’s attempt to hammer home lessons comes off feeling like an after school special. But, again, the movie didn’t have to address these types of issues at all. They could’ve hit us over the head with another plot about a rival barbershop or something along those lines. But instead, Barbershop: The Next Cut takes the high road, and manages to sublimate a horde of side splitting laughs with an endearing message.
FINAL GRADE: B+
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