A dozen years have passed and there have been some major changes, but Calvin’s Barbershop is as enjoyable a place to hang out for a couple of hours as ever. Featuring returning favorites and several fun new characters to spice up the mix, Barbershop: The Next Cut, the third installment in the film series, brings the laughs while injecting a serious topical theme that gives it a welcome edge. Viewers should be lining up for cuts.
The chief difference in this installment is notable from the outset. The Chicago South Side barber shop has gone coed, as Calvin (Ice Cube) has joined forces with salon owner Angie (Regina Hall) to create a single hair-cutting emporium. Although it was a canny business move for them, it’s even more advantageous for viewers, as the resulting gender clashes provide much of the film’s humor, such as an amusing debate about whether or not President Obama has a “side chick.”
A cut above.
At the same time, newcomer screenwriters Kenya Barris (creator of ABC’s Black-ish) and Tracy Oliver introduce a weightier tone by having much of the plot revolve around the horrific violence of the setting. When one gang member comes into the shop, Calvin confiscates his gun, like a saloonkeeper in the Old West. He also becomes increasingly concerned that his teenage son Jalen (Michael Rainey Jr.) is falling under the bad influence of his colleague Rashad’s (Common) son Kenny (Diallo Thompson) and is contemplating joining a gang.
When the gun violence on the streets becomes particularly acute, a plan is hatched to raise awareness of the problem. The shop pledges a weekend of free haircuts for everyone to promote a temporary cease-fire. Meanwhile, Calvin is secretly scouting locations across town to reopen his business in a safer locale.
A less rewarding subplot involves the tensions that develop between Rashad and his wife Terri (Eve) when she suspects him of fooling around with the shop’s sexy, vampy haircutter Draya (Nicki Minaj, whose fans will be pleased to know that she twerks in the film).
But while these plot elements move the pic along, the real appeal of the series is the relaxed and funny banter that goes on among the numerous characters in the shop. As with the previous two movies, many of the laughs come courtesy of the elderly, crotchety Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer), who shares his irascible views on every subject under the sun. His competition here includes such new barber arrivals as the comically nerdy Jerrod (Lamorne Morris); the Indian Raja (Utkarsh Ambudkr), who adds some ethnic humor; and the fast-talking entrepreneur One-Stop (JB Smoove).
The rapid-fire dialogue, which often has an improvised feel, features enough funny one-liners about such subjects as R. Kelly and “Instagram hoes” to keep fans satisfied. And it’s not all talk, since Calvin’s is the sort of place where the staff enjoys a spontaneous dance break.
Not every gag lands, and the effort to feature as many familiar characters as possible — including Anthony Anderson’s J.D., now running a food-truck business dubbed “Gangsta Grub” — feels strained. But despite its being more than a little rough around the edges, Barbershop: The Next Cut has an underlying sweetness that’s hard to resist. Taking over the directorial chores, Malcolm D. Lee demonstrates the same skill with large ensembles that he did on the Best Man films. The characters in this film seem to really like and care for each other, and audience members are bound to share their affection.
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Production: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures, New Line Cinema, Cube Vision, State Street Pictures
Cast: Ice Cube, Cedric the Entertainer, Regina Hall, Anthony Anderson, Eve, JB Smoove, Common, Nicki Minaj, Lamorne Morris, Sean Patrick Thomas, Deon Cole, Margot Bingham
Director: Malcolm D. Lee
Screenwriters: Kenya Barris, Tracy Oliver
Producers: Ice Cube, Robert Teitel, George L. Tillman Jr.
Executive producers: Malcolm D. Lee, Becki Cross Trujillo, Ronald G. Muhammad, Jeff Kwatinetz
Director of photography: Greg Gardiner
Production designer: Ina Mayhew
Editor: Paul Millspaugh
Costume designer: Danielle Hollowell
Composer: Stanley Clarke
Casting: Mary Vernieu, Michelle Wade Byrd
Rated PG-13, 111 minutes