A more mature installment that seeks to challenge audiences as often as it cracks them up, Barbershop: The Next Cut is a charming and enjoyable evolution in the series.
Calvin (Ice Cube, Ride Along 2) is concerned about the state of life in present day Chicago. Murders and shootings have become too frequent an occurrence and he’s considering a drastic change. As his teen son Jalen (Michael Rainey Jr.) starts to consider joining a gang, Calvin might have to make a decision sooner than he’d like. One that could impact life at the barber shop/beauty salon he co-owns with Angie (Regina Hall, The Best Man Holiday).
This dramatic slant is an unusual approach for a franchise that’s had so much success focused strictly on comedy. But considering it’s been 2004 since the last installment and so much has happened for black America, the film would seem tone deaf ignoring it. There’s the good (President Obama), the bad (the constant headlines of black men being killed by each other and the police) and smart phones.
Screenwriters Kenya Barris and Tracy Oliver have a commendable message, but they address it so often that every other scene feels like an endless lecture.
There’s no real conflict with it since none of the characters have an opposing viewpoint. It’s not like anyone is in favor of the gangs shooting each other and instilling fear in the community.
Maybe Barris and Oliver feared audiences couldn’t trust the complexity of the serious subplot contrasted with scenes featuring a twerking Nicki Minaj and talk about Instagram honeys. But that’s just life in the barbershop.
Despite the heavier subplot, the film is at its best when it’s just the barbers and stylists sharing their thoughts on modern events. Everyone at the barbershop becomes a profound philosopher and deep thinker, which is reflected very well in the film.
Cedric the Entertainer really shines in those moments as the unfiltered older barber Eddie. As enjoyable as Cedric is, JB Smooth (Top Five) probably steals the film as the sharp-dressing hustle man One Stop. Eve returns as the fiery Terri, now having to worry about stylist Draya (Minaj, The Other Woman) plotting to get with her barber husband, Rashad (Common).
Some of the faces have changed, but Lamorne Morris, Margot Bingham, Utkarsah Ambudkar and Deon Cole make for entertaining new additions to the shop.
Even for an ensemble, there’s too many characters. Not including those making brief cameos appearances, Next Cut features around 14 characters. Given his experience with large casts in The Best Man franchise, Director Malcolm D. Lee never appears overwhelmed juggling this massive crew.
Despite the numbers, Lee makes sure none of the principal characters at the shop get slighted. He’s probably too generous on that front as he includes too many reaction shots. The intent is admirable, but over time those throwaway moments add up.
Just shy of two hours, the film is too long for what should be a quick hang out, even with the more dramatic component.
I can’t be too upset with a movie where the filmmakers are so passionate about their message. Clipping a little would have made for a sharper effort, but Next Cut is a pretty sharp reason to revisit Calvin and the gang again.
Rating: 8.5 out of 10
Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures