By Michael Kaye
Barbershop: The Next Cut (Review)
Well, this movie sure came as a surprise. More often than not, comedy sequels are never as good as the original, while further installments could continue to decrease in quality. Nobody knows that better than Ice Cube, who's starred in his fair share of sequels. At first I was convinced that the Barbershop franchise was doomed to this same curse, as the sequel Barbershop 2: Back in Business wasn't nearly as good as the original. But today, I witnessed that curse lifting with Barbershop: The Next Cut.
Here's the story. It’s been more than 10 years since our last appointment at Calvin’s Barbershop. Calvin and his longtime crew, including Eddie, are still there, but the shop has undergone some major changes. Most noticeably, our once male-dominated sanctuary is now co-ed. The ladies bring their own flavor, drama and gossip to the shop challenging the fellas at every turn. Despite the good times and camaraderie within the shop, the surrounding community has taken a turn for the worse, forcing Calvin and our crew to come together to not only save the shop, but their neighborhood.
This movie is.....great? Am I really saying that about a sequel, a SECOND sequel no less, to Barbershop!? Yeah, believe it or not, there's a lot of meat to this movie that you wouldn't have guessed was there simply by watching the trailers. Here are my positives and negatives.
*Possible spoilers ahead*
First off, I think by far the strongest part of this film was the cast. I'm not saying Ice Cube is the greatest thespian of all time, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't at least a little bit moved by his performance this time around. I really liked his chemistry with the rest of his crew, especially Cedric the Entertainer's Eddie, Common as Rashad, and Michael Rainey Jr. as Calvin's son Jalen. The new cast is pretty awesome as well, including Lamorne Morris as Jarrod and Utkarsh Ambudkar as Raja. And I have to be honest, these are probably the best performances I've seen from non-actors such as Eve and Nicki Minaj (the only time you'll ever see me giving her praise).
One thing I've always liked about this franchise is the rotating director's chair, each one bringing their own flavor to the table. Tim Story directed the first movie, and that's still some of his best work in his entire career (considering what he's done since, that's not saying much). Kevin Rodney Sullivan directed Back in Business, and while that movie's not great, at least we get some backstory for Eddie, which was very compelling. This time around we got Malcolm D. Lee, Spike Lee's cousin and creator of the Best Man franchise. What a coincidence then that so many people are comparing this movie to his cousin's latest film Chi-raq, both revolving around gang violence in Chicago. The difference though is since Barbershop is a comedy, it approaches the subject with a slightly softer touch, while still providing relevant social commentary.
For better or worse, I don't go into these movies for the story, but rather just to hang out with these characters. That being said, the story I was most invested in was Calvin's arc about dealing with his son Jalen, who's caught in the middle of a gang war.
Finally, can't talk about a movie set in Chicago without praising it's awesome soundtrack. When you open the movie with Earth, Wind and Fire's "September," you know you're in for a good time. There are some other great artists included as well, like James Brown, Curtis Mayfield, David Kessner, and Ice Cube and Common.
Really don't have much to say in terms of negatives for this one. Though due to the loose nature of the narrative, there are several different subplots throughout the film, and not all of them are going to click. For example, did we really need to rehash almost the exact same story beat from the first film, where Calvin makes a shady deal behind everyone else's back? I understood the motivation, and it resolved itself just fine, but it really wasn't necessary. Same deal goes for Anthony Anderson's character, whose "Gangsta Grub" arc was completely useless and contributed nothing to the overall plot.
Barbershop: The Next Cut should not have been nearly this good, especially for a third entry of the franchise. But, I'm not gonna lie, this is actually the best of the trilogy, and possibly Ice Cube's best performance. I like the cast, I like the direction Malcolm D. Lee took these characters, and I really liked the overall tone of the film. Got nothing better to do this weekend, and is Jungle Book sold out? Go spend a few bucks on a Matinee and give this a watch.