BARBERSHOP: THE NEXT CUT
It’s a little ironic that one of the first films I have the honour of reviewing is a sequel to the first film I ever watched in a Nigerian cinema (Barbershop 2: Back in Business). The Barbershop franchise is an American comedy film series that is often appreciated but not revered. So to see a sequel 11 years after its spin-off film Beauty shop was unexpected. After the first film introduced us to Calvin (Ice-cube) and the gang, and the sequel dealt with the pressures of gentrification and its potential effects on a local business, where can the crew take us to this time? Malcolm D. Lee of the Best Man Wedding and Undercover Brother fame takes the helm to direct this new iteration.
It’s been more than 10 years since viewers booked an appointment at Calvin’s Barbershop. What has happened over this long period of time? Well first and foremost the shop has now become co-ed. In order to survive the recession, Calvin and Angie (Regina Hall) have fused the barbershop and the beauty salon into a single entity. Gone are days when the guys viewed the shop as their private sanctuary as they must now contend and work with their sassy female co-workers. Though the shop remains a safe haven for the guys and girls, the outside world of Chicago isn’t kind and forgiving as criminal and gang activity are on the rise , giving Calvin legitimate fears about the fate of his family and friends, especially his son Jalen (Michael Rainey Jr.) who is getting attracted to that lifestyle. In a bid to combat this issue, the gang decide to use the barbershop, a pillar of the community as a backdrop for a bold plan to bring peace to their beloved neighborhood. Is this Barbershop worth a re-visit ? lets take a look at the pros and cons.
- Now that the barbershop is now co-ed. the ladies of the cast add an extra dimension to the comedy as they bring their own drama, gossip and flavour to proceedings. They hilariously challenge the men at every opportunity. The battle of the sexes that rages on between the cast provides for some of the films best jokes.
The new cast members make the film feel fresh and most of them are extremely likeable, so much so that outgoing cast members like Michael Ealy or Queen Latifah don’t really feel missed, which is a big plus in my book. This visit to the barbershop introduces us to characters like Jerrod (Lamorne Morris); a geek that everyone assumes is gay, Raja (Utkarsh Ambudkar), an Indian barber who is sarcastic and a Republican voter. Draya (Nicki Minaj) a booty-shaking stylist who attempts to steal the heart of Rashad (Common), a new barber who is not afraid to challenge Calvin and is also married to the original gal in the shop Terri (Eve) and Dante (Deon Cole), a customer who practically lives in the shop and doesn’t look like he’s leaving any time soon.
- Fans of the films will be happy to see that Eddie (Cedric The Entertainer) who is often credited as big reason for the franchise’s success is still a highlight of the film for the jokes and the more serious moments. He still has a cheeky look on his face whenever he says something horrible and he also shows genuine concern when the situation gets serious and is always wiling to pass on life lessons to his younger colleagues. A personal favourite from the returning cast is J.D. (Anthony Anderson) a former barber in the shop who is always scheming to make a quick buck. This time he’s using Calvin’s shop as a platform to promote his new business gangster grub, where he swears that the proceeds goes back to the community and it opens the door for a really funny moment in the film.
- It must be noted that despite all its humor – the film never loses sight of primary situation the characters have to deal with being crime and gang activity. Calvin’s fear of his son ‘s well being and behaviour is one that a parent of any race, can relate to. I appreciate the fact that the film treats the matter in a respectful manner, though it feels a bit preachy but ultimately, it doesn’t lose its pull on the viewer. I can get behind the message that when the politicians fail to resolve an issue its up to the community to band together and form a solution.
- Despite having many chuckle worthy moments, the movie isn’t littered with laugh out loud moments , which can be seen as a cardinal sin in the comedy genre. I suppose a movie that consistently makes one giggle than roll on the floor with laughter with only one or two jokes is the lesser of two evils
- Two of the films sub-plots were very weak in my opinion. The love triangle between Rashad, Draya and Terri was rather flat and it doesn’t do enough to keep us interested and comes off as filler to extend the film. The other subplot revolving around Calvin and Angie business decision regarding the fate of the shop feels like a missed opportunity to increase the stakes, its not brought up enough and its resolved rather quickly without any of the drama escalating.
- Though the film focuses a lot of its attention on Calvin, one must note that Regina Hall’s character, Angie the new co-owner of the shop was criminally under-used. I really like the actress and I really felt that she could have been utilized better if we saw some things from her perspective rather than relegate her to a character that makes a few quips.
- I feel Nicki Minaj is another wasted opportunity. Yes she plays her role fine and she does add eye candy to the movie, but other than that she doesn’t feel as real as the other characters, which is a bit jarring.
- Though the film talks a lot about gangs and crime. We don’t see a lot of it in the film. A part of me feels that the message would have been better conveyed if they actually showed more of it. Talking about it raises interest but showing the effects would have driven the point home and would have gotten more people thinking about it. Then again the film is primarily a comedy so I guess it would have dampened the mood if they took that angle.