Barbershop: The Next Cut

Posted by Joel Copling on April 14, 2016

On one hand, I am perhaps not the person to review this movie. I did not see 2002's "Barbershop" or its 2004 sequel, "Barbershop: Back in Business," or its 2005 spin-off, "Beauty Shop," so my takeaway from this second sequel must entirely revolve around the question of whether I should have done (and, in retrospect, now want to do) my homework in this area. There are speed bumps over which Malcolm D. Lee's "Barbershop: The Next Cut" must drive, largely in the form of subplots perhaps informed by the previous films in the series, but there is a clear, concise, and affecting core in what screenwriters Kenya Barris and Tracy Oliver accomplish. The film is asked to account for the 11 years of black culture since we last saw its characters, and it does a respectable job.

It also finds that black life in America now is both at its most advantageous and its most precarious. There is talk in today's climate of privilege, who has it, and to whom it is entitled. This film reasons that there is enough privilege in the African-American community to revolt against a system that, as they see it, is rigged against them and not nearly enough to reconcile certain historical violence. There are conversations here that mention by name those recent victims of domestic violence that have made news cycles as much for the circumstances surrounding them as for what they represent in the bigger picture and a discussion regarding what a black President has done for that bigger picture.

It might seem too much for a comedy about barbers in a shop, but the screenplay leaves a healthy amount of room for moralizing that seems genuine. It also provides some narrative beats that shift the general conversation into a more specific arena. Calvin Palmer (Ice Cube), who inherited the shop from his father (and is now looking to move it to another location), and his wife Jennifer (Jaszmin Lewis) now have a child, one whose outward style (a mess of dreadlocks, sagging pants) has started to emulate the bad crowd with which he has become ensconced. Their former colleague Jimmy (Sean Patrick Lewis), meanwhile, has become mayor and wants to install a barricade around the part of the city in which Calvin's shop largely operates to stem the gang violence that plagues Chicago.

The major thrust of the narrative presents itself when Calvin and his partner Angie (Regina Hall) institute a 48-hour ceasefire between the warring gangs (two opposing members of which have tense moments of confrontation when their schedules overlap) by offering free haircuts for that period of time. Another subplot doesn't work as well: Jabari (Common) and his wife Terri (Eve) have some marital problems, like emotional and occasionally physical distance, that are exacerbated when his co-worker Draya (Nicki Minaj) becomes ostentatiously flirty. It introduces and resolves itself in about as predictable a manner as one could imagine, and the fact that its entire arc is established and solved calls into question its existence.

The point is that the film doesn't exactly need such external pressure as a subplot involving an extramarital affair, but it is of little matter in that bigger picture. The film is also prone to devices that must be elemental to the series, such as the inclusion of eldest barber Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer) or the barely veiled sexual tension between Jerrod (Lamorne Morris) and Bree (Margot Bingham), but even that stuff is sort of fun as a tonal distraction from heavier elements (Needless to say, the ceasefire is interrupted in a tragic way) that fortunately are not too weighty to drag it down entirely. "Barbershop: The Next Cut" is a surprisingly solid examination of violence in a climate that desperately wants a solution to it.

Film Information

Ice Cube (Calvin Palmer), Cedric the Entertainer (Eddie), Regina Hall (Angie), Sean Patrick Thomas (Jimmy), Eve (Terri), Anthony Anderson (J.D.), Jaszmin Lewis (Jennifer), Common (Jabari), Nicki Minaj (Draya), Lamorne Morris (Jerrod), Utkarsh Ambudkar (Raja), Margot Bingham (Bree), Deon Cole (Dante), Troy Garity (Isaac).

Directed by Malcolm D. Lee and written by Kenya Barris and Tracy Oliver.

Rated PG-13 (sexual material, language).

112 minutes.

Released on April 15, 2016.