A few months back, one could almost feel Ice Cube’s annoyance at having to make the hit “Ride Along 2.” Conversely, there’s a certain pride in Cube’s new movie “Barbershop: The Next Cut.”
Like its predecessors, the third in the “Barbershop” series is rough around the edges, by turns funny, jubilant and sentimental, sometimes forced, but rarely phony.
At their best, these movies have something to say. Made 12 years ago in the post-Enron era, “Barbershop 2: Back in Business,” dealt with corporate forces running small-time workers out of business.
Real-life, escalating violence on the streets of Chicago provides an urgent reason to revisit the series today.
Calvin (Cube) runs a unisex salon alongside partner Angie (Regina Hall), still struggling to get by, but now with the added pressure that anyone could be killed just walking down the street.
Some of the old familiar faces (Sean Patrick Thomas, Troy Garity) show up for quick cuts, and old Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer), with a more sensible haircut, is still the wisecracking staple in the corner.
Terri (Eve) is still worked up about people drinking her apple juice, and a slew of new faces are now employed at the shop, including Terri’s husband Rashad (Common).
New stylist Draya (Nicki Minaj) causes a ruckus with her Jessica Rabbit-like figure and her flirtations with Rashad. More drama arises when Calvin considers moving the shop to Chicago’s north side, and when Calvin and Rashad’s sons toy with joining a local gang.
Everyone comes together for a weekend cease-fire at the shop, during which the gang leaders agree not to shoot anyone in exchange for free haircuts.
It may not be a solution, but it’s a baby step, and it’s certainly better than the city’s plan to close off access to the neighborhood to make it easier to control.
“Barbershop: The Next Cut” director Malcolm D. Lee (“Undercover Brother,” “The Best Man Holiday”) handles the humor and the soapy stuff effectively. The movie provides a fascinating comparison to his cousin Spike Lee’s recent “Chi-raq,” also about trying to find solutions to Chicago’s bloodshed.
Both are messy, and too chock full of subplots. But they’re also vibrant and ambitious, with a positive pulse.
Is “Barbershop: The Next Cut” a message movie? Yes and no.
But it’s certainly not the kind that’s callously aimed at white Academy voters.
Those who do receive it may find a little inspiration or hope, and if not that, then at least a little joy.
Barbershop: The Next Cut
Starring: Ice Cube, Cedric the Entertainer, Common, Nicki Minaj
Written by: Kenya Barris, Tracy Oliver
Directed by: Malcolm D. Lee
Running time: 1 hour, 52 minutes