Review: Barbershop: The Next Cut
PLOT: Long time barbershop owner Calvin (Ice Cube) considers relocating to the North Side of Chicago due to rampant gang violence in his South Side home - a resolve strengthened once his son starts to flirt with joining a local gang.
REVIEW: Confession time - I'd never seen any of the BARBERSHOP movies until now. The first two came out a few years before I started working for JoBlo, and honestly, I was just never interested. From what I saw, they seemed to be goofy comedies so I went into this expecting a couple of quick laughs and not much else. To my surprise, BARBERSHOP: THE NEXT CUT was concerned with a lot more than tickling people’s funny bones. While tied-up in a brightly lit, sitcom package, at its heart THE NEXT CUT is a plea for peace, with the premise centering around the ongoing gang situation in Chicago - ground which Spike Lee covered in CHI-RAQ.
Right from the start, Ice Cube’s voice-over suggests the stakes here are very real, with him being shown to confiscate guns from his customers, and navigate appointments with his clients as when two members of rival gangs show-up for a cut, he almost finds himself in the middle of a gunfight. What makes his story even scarier is that his son, at fourteen, is flirting with the gang lifestyle, with it being presented as almost inescapable here. Him and his friends are constantly being harassed by one gang or another, and witnessing the aftermath of murders has become almost routine.
As such, the crux of the story revolves around the workers at Calvin’s shop, including his beauty salon partner Angie (Regina Hall), calling for a forty-eight hour ceasefire where their shop becomes a safe zone where anyone can stop by for a free haircut and some conversation if they adhere to the rules. All of this may sound kind of heavy for what’s supposed to be a comedy, but clearly Ice Cube, his writers Kenya Barris (of the TV show Black-ish), Tracy Oliver and director Malcolm D. Lee (of THE BEST MAN series) have a message they want to put across. And gang violence is just one of those, with much time spent debating sexism in black culture, absentee dads, the black lives matter movement and more. Only some of these debates are sprinkled with comedy and even when they are it’s clear there’s a point they’re trying to convey.
Is this all a little heavy-handed? Maybe, but it’s also necessary to keep the discourse going so no one can blame them for taking a serious turn in this third installment. However, the movie also shies away from going full-on into drama mode (although it comes mighty close with a shocking death in the third act), with Cedric the Entertainer’s crotchety Eddie going-on about how he knew Obama before he became president, and constant client Dante (Deon Cole) throwing in the occasional zinger while J.B Smoove (the only really consistently funny person in the cast this time) uses his space at the shop to work as an licensed doctor/real estate broker/lawyer/marriage counselor, etc. Meanwhile, some relationship stuff is added to the mix with Calvin’s new brother-in-law (Common) being tempted by the salon’s resident seductress (Nicki Minaj) while trying to be a good dad to his own son - who’s also flirting with the gang lifestyle.
While it is jarring that the comedy and relationship stuff now feels like little more than a concession to the box-office, the people involved obviously want to tell a serious story and it’s commendable that they’ve risked such a lucrative series to go down that road. While the movie isn’t very funny and often feels like a bit of an after-school special, it says something important in a way that will reach lots of people - and that’s worth celebrating.