There’s been a big change at Calvin’s Barbershop since the last movie was made over 10 years ago. The male sanctuary has been converted to a unisex salon, and some feisty female employees — including manager Angie (Regina Hall), flamboyant Draya (Nicki Minaj), and cynical Bree (Margot Bingham) — have brought a new flava to the former man cave.
In addition to Ice Cube as Calvin, among the regulars reprising their roles are Jazmin Lewis as his wife Jennifer, Eve as Terri, Cedric the Entertainer as Eddie, Anthony Anderson as J.D., Sean Patrick Harris as Jimmy, and Troy Garrity as Isaac. The cast has several newcomers; most notably scene-stealing J.B. Smoove as One-Stop; Deon Cole as Dante; and Common, whose character, Rashad, is married to Eve.
As the film unfolds, we’re shown a montage of file footage featuring Reverend Al Sharpton and Father Pfleger, as well as news stories about the increase in drive-by shootings on the South Side of Chicago. The situation has Calvin thinking that it might be better to relocate the establishment to a safer section of the city.
More importantly, he’s worried about the safety of his adolescent son, Jalen (Michael Rainey, Jr.), who is attending the Holy Cross Catholic School. It seems that on his way home, Jalen has to negotiate his way through a gauntlet of gangstas who are pressuring him to join their gangs.
Street violence appears to be claiming a young person’s life on a daily basis, with some of it hitting a little too close to home. This inspires Calvin to call a peace summit in a desperate attempt to negotiate a ceasefire between the bitter rivals, the Vice Lords and the G.D.s.
In addition to addressing the escalating murder rate, the picture has plenty of its trademark levity. One moment, we’re treated to an old-fashioned battle-of-the-sexes. Next, there’s a debate over President Obama’s commitment to the black community. And the best comic relief comes from trash-talking One-Stop, who has an endless supply of market items for sale: nickel bags of weed, baby pit bulls, and watermelon-flavored fried chicken.
Directed by Malcolm Lee (The Best Man), Barbershop: The Next Cut is a pleasant surprise because it combines the campy comedy with a serious social agenda. Easily the best film in the series, the movie entertains and also delivers a sobering message that’s long overdue.
Excellent (****). Rated PG-13 for profanity, ethnic slurs, and sexuality. Running time: 112 minutes. Distributor: New Line Cinema/Warner Brothers.