‘Barbershop: The Next Cut’ Is The Best Trip To The Shop Yet (Movie Review)

barbershop 3 thumbWhen you have a premise that is as easy-going as watching characters interact in a barbershop, it’s not too much of a wonder to figure why it’s enjoyable. Coming in more than a decade after the last entry in this series, Barbershop: The Next Cut may have changed the setup a bit, but there is a real ease to which we accept the atmosphere of this film. Everyone seems so comfortable in their roles, which is important, as the film balances comedy, honest opinions and social agendas that have a real place in the world of today. This all ends up making The Next Cut the best entry yet in a series that has always been fairly likable.

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Ice Cube’s Calvin began this series as a younger guy who inherited the barbershop from his pops. Now Calvin is a father of his own, working hard to keep the shop afloat with co-owner Angie (an underused Regina Hall). It doesn’t help that the shop’s placement in South Side, Chicago, has become more of a danger, given the increase of gang violence over the years. Wisely, the film does not simply use this as a hot-button topic, but allows it to play a role in where the story goes. Of course, much of the film is happy to lean on a talented cast of comedic actors verbally sparring with one another.

Cedric the Entertainer returns as Eddie, a man rooted in old-fashioned sensibilities and insults, happy to dole out some actual wisdom when the plot calls for it. Other returning cast members include Eve, Sean Patrick Thomas, Troy Garity and Anthony Anderson, who all look and act more or less the same (save for Anderson, who has become quite trim since becoming a TV dad). New editions include Common, J.B Smoove, New Girl’s Lamorne Morris, Deon Cole, Margot Bingham and Nicki Minaj. If you are familiar with most of the personalities of these performers, than you pretty much know where you stand with them in the film.

The best thing about this cast is how the film lets them talk. 2002’s Barbershop was the kind of fun and popular black-centric film that came before they seemingly died out and paved the way for Tyler Perry films to run amok. Once Perry was in play, it started to become considered a ‘surprise’ when films like Think Like A Man broke out both critically and at the box office. Whatever the case may be, Barbershop: The Next Cut has a setup so clear that it feels like almost no time has passed since the last entry, despite being more motivated to dive into relevant issues. That’s part of why it should not be considered a ‘surprise’ when this movie plays well for audiences that will no doubt enjoy it and not feel pandered to in the process.

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Added perspective helps, as this new time frame allows Calvin and the gang to discuss things like President Obama, #BlackLivesMatter and their situation in Chicago. To its credit, Barbershop: The Next Cut actually feels like a much more light-hearted Chi-Raq, from director Spike Lee. Fittingly enough, Spike’s cousin, Malcolm D. Lee, has directed this film and it works more favorably like his films The Best Man and Roll Bounce, rather than some of his weaker efforts, like Scary Movie 5. I only wish Lee had a better sense of how to keep the barbershop cinematically interesting from a visual perspective.

Limited visual direction aside though, Lee has the work of writers Kenya Barris (Black*ish) and Tracy Oliver to supply him and his actors more than enough material to make for a consistently entertaining and sometimes insightful film. This third Barbershop movie is not about to start creating real change for South Side, but I did like the attempts the film made both in involving Calvin’s son in a fairly well-handled plot and the optimistic view the film goes for, following an event the barbershop crew put together.

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We also have the presentation of gender politics and stereotypes that are discussed from all sides, which is typical of the series. Fortunately, it is all entertaining material. It may lead to numerous scenes where characters stand on their soap box, but I’d rather see a movie approach these conversations in a frank (and generally quite funny) way than follow the path of a weaker screenplay that does not allow for the chemistry and rhythms that easily flow thanks to having this kind of cast. Not all of it works and some of the subplots play a bit too broadly, but for the most part, it is fun sitting back in the barbershop and listening to these people talk.

Barbershop: The Next Cut happily fits in with other recent sequels coming in years later, yet successfully finding a reason to exist. It’s not as if Ice Cube has been struggling, so having him come back to produce another Barbershop film and bring along a bunch of old and new talent has certainly allowed him to put focus on issues he seemingly cares about, in addition to making an entertaining feature. The care for the film shows and is maybe best emblemized in seeing Cube and Common, two rappers with a very troubled history, working together on a comedy supporting a well-intentioned message.

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