Ice Cube and his lovable band of barbers and stylists return for another romp at Calvin’s Barbershop in Barbershop: The Next Cut. By now, Calvin’s son is 14 and he’s combined his shop with a beauty shop, a move that has carried both businesses through the recession and beyond — though Calvin wryly observes that the recession never left the Southside. But lately, it’s the other goings on in the Southside that have given Calvin pause.
Throughout these films, Calvin’s greatest temptation has been to leave it all behind, but his defining trait is his ultimate unwillingness to do so. However often he tries to shake it off, Calvin is a man who cares about community, and it’s not in him to turn his back on his. Still, when gang-related violence takes a sharp uptick in the neighborhood, he once again finds himself wondering if he shouldn’t get out, leave for his son and his wife.
Ice Cube is an artist who, along with NWA, rose to prominence because he had something to say. Throughout his career, he’s created work reflective of the time and place he’s in. Though he did not write this, or indeed, any of the Barbershop films, his return to the franchise after some 12 years may well be because this film too has something to say. Calvin and his crew still trade the quips and banter that have been the hallmark of the series — and now they have a whole shop full of the opposite sex to fire right back at them — but this is meant to be a slice of life, and the concerns of the neighborhood are a constant low hum underneath everything else.
Convinced that no one else, up to and including the government, can or will do anything to change the dire situation they find their hometown in, the barbershop crew decide it’s on them to take action. It speaks to the idea of leaving the world better than you found it and it’s an impactful, emotive backdrop to the entire picture.
Meanwhile, the old familiar faces are here doing their thing, and some new ones have joined the fun. J.B. Smoove’s One-Stop, Nicki Minaj’s Draya, Lamorne Morris’s Jerrod and Utkarsh Ambidkar’s Raja shake-up the familiar chemistry between Calvin, Rashad (Common), Terri (Eve), J.D. (Anthony Anderson) and, of course, Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer).
As much as it feels the stakes have been upped in terms of social commentary, the strongest moments in the film still come courtesy of the interactions between this group of characters as they pass their days in the shop. While there are occasional blips (Calvin’s rather stage-ily framed conversation about moving with his wife) that powerfully remind us we are watching actors spin the words of other people, most of the film maintains the naturalistic feel that has endeared the series to its many fans. Barbershop: The Next Cut is a solid entry into a solid series of films that’s sure to strike a chord with most audiences.