Barbershop: The Next Cut

Directed By: Malcolm D. Lee

Starring: Ice Cube, Cedric the Entertainer, Regina Hall, Eve, Anthony Anderson, J. B. Smoove, Common, Nicki Minaj, Lamorne Morris, Deon Cole, Sean Patrick Thomas, Margot Bingham, and Tyga

It's been 12 years since the Barbershop franchise has been relevant.  It's safe to say that all of us thought the shop was closed for good.  However, Hollywood has a way of bringing things back from the dead.  Normally, I would give a list of attempts to revive series long gone as examples of why revisiting long-forgotten franchises is a bad idea.  In this particular case, I'm not going to do so.  The primary reason for this is that there's a void in black cinema today.  Though not every day, there is a decent number of films that delve into our history and how it informs our present.  Just look to 12 Years a Slave, Selma, or the upcoming The Birth of a Nation as evidence.  There's very little, however, that makes it to the big screen and speaks directly about our present.  I'm not saying that Barbershop: The Next Cut is the next Fruitvale Station, but a return to the franchise certainly helps to fill that void, especially given the film's setting.

With the economic challenges of the last several years, barber Calvin (Ice Cube) and hairstylist Angie (Regina Hall) join forces.  This ultimately means that Calvin's Barbershop and Angie's Beauty Shop must now coexist in the same establishment as the battle of the sexes rages on.  Economic challenges aren't the only thing the two business partners are facing, however.  South Side Chicago is being torn asunder by gangs with people getting killed every day in senseless acts of violence, and the barbershop find itself frequently in the crossfire.  They've turned to local city officials for support, namely their envoy Jimmy James (Sean Patrick Thomas).  The only solution the politicians can offer is to set up an enclosure that allows for only one entry and exit point to the South Side for a 20-block radius.  The barbershop would fall right in the middle of said radius, and business would suffer as a result of this potential enclosure.

As gang violence rages in the city, Calvin and his wife Jennifer (Jazmin Lewis) are impacted on a more personal front.  Their son Jalen (Michael Rainey, Jr.) is getting swept into the gang culture.  Calvin will do everything in his power to prevent it, including moving his shop to the north side.  Meanwhile, things aren't so rosy for couple Rashad and Terri (Common & Eve).  Hairstylist Draya (Nicki Minaj) takes notice and only adds to the fire with her passes at Rashad.  Elsewhere, both Bree (Margot Bingham) and Jerrod (Lamorne Harris) frequently put themselves out there in the shop a bit too much with their personal views on love and romance, though Bree has the benefit of actually being right most of the time.  J.D. finds a new hustle selling Gangsta Grub on the streets to stop the violence.  Finally, barbershop veteran Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer) still talks smack all day long.

It's safe to say that the razors are still sharp at Calvin's Barbershop.  This third installment in the series serves up plenty of humor and drama alike.  The gang we know and love is back getting into crazy, amusing shenanigans.  There are also plenty of new faces who earn their seats with plenty of their own new tricks and antics.  Tackling the violence that's plaguing Chicago, this third entry in the franchise is not all fun and games.  The latest Barbershop does what mainstream cinema rarely does these days by delivering a social message about gang violence, the importance of fathers, and the importance of community.  While Barbershop: The Next Cut isn't the perfect messenger to delve into these subjects, it's certainly better than not having anything at all.  Offering the first meaningful dialogue on the present challenges facing certain segments of the black community in the present, the solidly crafted comedy gets the job done.

The cast is mostly at the top of their game throughout the film though there are a few comedic gems to call out.  For the most part, these standouts are supporting actors.  As usual, Cedric the Entertainer delivers plenty of hilarious barbs as he reprises the role of the wisecracking elder barber Eddie.  He's once again elevates this film with his unique brand of comedy.  I must admit that my rating would be a little different if it weren't for his performance.  Anthony Anderson is also a returning cast member who delivers the goods as J.D.  Scheming with the food service known as Gangsta Grub this time around, Anderson delivers another strong supporting performance as well.  Finally, newbies Lamorne Harris and Margot Bingham bring a breath of fresh air to the film with some younger perspectives on society, love, and relationships as Jerrod and Bree respectively.

Barbershop: The Next Cut
is not perfect by any measure.  It's a bit formulaic at times, but it's a niche genre that's been desperately missed.  The Next Cut gets a strong 0.06% rating.  Have a few glasses of Chardonnay with this one.