Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Reviewed by: Jonny Botsch
Twelve years after the last film, Calvin's barbershop is still open for business and we all get to sit in the chair to see the next cut.
If art is the product of the times it’s created in, then Barbershop is no exception. The movie tackles gang violence and other current events (as a Barbershop movie should), as well as keeping up with new styles and attitudes. With the gap between the second and third movies being over a decade you can imagine all the tight jeans and constant referencing of social media or the inclusion of women as a full 50% of the cast, but there is more good than bad that comes out of these changes.
The movie retains the same feel as the first two, which is key with a sequel. Fans should enjoy seeing the cameos, the jokes are there, and Cedric is on point. The dialogue is at the perfect pitch for the kind of Barbershop talk that we've come to expect from the franchise. And, hey, Nicky Minaj can act! Who knew? This isn't a role that requires much range for the rapping barbie doll but it doesn't make you roll your eyes either. That privilege is reserved for her unnatural proportions which are prominently featured throughout the run time. The social issues are resonant and will age well, but not as well as Cube. They try to age Cedric up as well to convince you over a decade had passed but they really could have just shot the movie as if it were the next day and nobody would be the wiser.
Anthony Anderson, Troy Garity and Sean Patrick Thomas all feature in small roles ranging from cameos to superfluous subplots. It was nice to see them again but it would have been nicer to give them a little more screen time. As a fan, I shouldn't complain since there were characters who didn't come back like Dinka, Michael Ealy's Pretty Ricky or Queen Latifah. Still, twelve years later, it's not inconceivable that these people have moved on. However, we still get Eve doing her thing and her story has progressed in that she is now married.
The main addition to the cast is Common. While he is a great actor and Mr. Chitown (and therefore a perfect fit for this Chicago based franchise), he was also clearly a stand-in for Michael Ealy, who wasn't able or perhaps interested in reprising his role. The parallels are quite clear. In the second movie, filmmakers had developed a relationship between Ealy's character Ricky and Eve's character Teri. The marriage that is shown at the start of the movie was likely to have been written as Ricky and Eve, especially since there are references to Cube's friendship with Common. That would make much more sense if it had been Ricky, who we as viewers had invested in for two movies. There is also Cube's fear that Common's son is becoming a bad influence on his own son. Again, this makes more sense with the built-in backstory of the first movie when Ricky has a reputation for being a 2x felon. With Common's Rashad character we can only infer his history from statements made in the movie. Still, for most viewers, this won't be all that obvious and Common fills the same roll well enough.
In these harder economic times, the Barbershop has merged with the Beauty Shop next door to help them both survive. Kind of silly since that would have required a renovation to the building that would cost a shit load of money.
Of the new cast, there are a few stand outs which help make up for missing favorites. Most notably is Utkarsh Ambudkar who plays Raja, and is the voice of the next generation coming up in the shop. He is one half of a seeming comedy duo with Lamorne Morris, who is far more annoying with his constant mentioning of Twitter and trending and his post-2000s sexual androgyny. The two have some nice chemistry and play off each other well enough, but really Raja could have held his own without any assist. J.B. Smoove is a new character called One Stop and will not disappoint, and Deon Cole, who plays a regular in the shop who never leaves, steals most of his scenes. Director Malcolm D. Lee is a great choice to revive this franchise. His tone and visual acumen is complimentary to the series and fans should be happy with the choice.
Finally, if the message of the movie is to put bygones aside and stop urban violence, there could be no bigger statement to that effect than having Ice Cube and Common come together in this film and put aside their history. The two rappers have had beef for decades that had to be settled with a ceasefire of their own, sitting down at a table with Minister Farrakhan to talk it out. This movie has a very specific intention and it succeeds for the most part, but it also gets a little preachy at times. That's not a bad thing, even if it does go over the top in a couple places. But much like Cedric the Entertainer says in the first film, "At the end of the day, I'm glad I was here."