It might be only mid-April but it appears that 2016 is the year of sequels that come a decade too late. Already we’ve seen Zoolander 2 come and stink up the place, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is a mediocre follow up to its predecessor and we have Independence Day, Bridget Jones and Finding Nemo follow ups still to come. While Finding Dory and Independence Day: Resurgence will most likely find a big audience and be successful, a lot of these films leave you wondering why a studio even bothered to resurrect these titles in the first place. Surely the ship has sailed on any interest in them and Ice Cube’s new film Barbershop: The Next Cut is an excellent example of this.
Barbershop: The Next Cut is the fourth movie in this particular franchise that has seen two Barbershop movies and one spin off film with Queen Latifah’s character getting her own vehicle, Beauty Shop. Now, twelve years later, Ice Cube brings back his Calvin Palmer, Eddie and the rest of the Barbershop to try and be a little topically relevant with a bunch of new characters to tell the story. Was it really worth the effort or is this just another film that tries to bring a financial success that none of the movies in the series has obtained?
To start out the film, Calvin (Ice Cube) catches us up on the events of the last ten years. The shop is still the major hub of the neighborhood, Angie’s (Regina Hall) beauty shop is part of Calvin’s shop and Terri (Eve) is now married to Rashad (Common) and have a child together. Eddie (Cedric The Entertainer) is still a staple at the show that gets no customers and there’s been some new hires including Draya (Nicki Minaj), Jerrod (New Girl’s Lamorne Morris) and Raja (Utkarsh Ambudkar). Calvin also has the area hangers on of Dante, played by the hilarious Deon Cole, who never seems to leave the shop and One Stop (J.B. Smoove), a shady businessman in bad suits that Calvin rents space to. Inside the barbershop, things are good.
The world outside of the shop is anything but good. Chicago is an absolute war zone with gangland violence escalating out of control and the death toll rising exponentially every day. Calvin is having a tough time with his teen son, Jalen, as he seems to be drifting away from his father into the hands of one of the gangs in the neighborhood. Becoming more and more disheartened to the decline of his beloved city, Calvin is looking to uproot the shop and move it to another area before it’s too late for his family but decides to try and make a difference first by negotiating a forty-eight hour cease fire between the two gangs. If this idea is successful, his idea might just change everything for him, his family, his friends and fellow citizens.
The timing on this movie, for me, was incredibly interesting, having just watched and reviewed Chi-Raq, Spike Lee’s hard hitting adaptation of the Ancient Greek play Lysistrata. Lee’s film is based around this same issue of gang violence in Chicago, but in a totally volatile and frenetic fashion while Malcolm D. Lee’s Barbershop: The Next Cut merely uses this as the backdrop for its story, in a more Hollywood glossy depiction of it, only, in the end, showing a little of the real community in its fight against the gratuitous bloodshed affecting so many people. At the conclusion of the film as I stood up to leave the theatre, I dubbed it “Diet Chi-Raq in a glass with Ice Cubes”. It addresses the issue but gives a hokey and cheesy depiction and proposed solution while just having characters argue about it as exposition.
There are fun parts in the film and actors and actresses that are definitely enjoyable on screen. Lamorne Morris is always great as part of an ensemble, as is proved week after week in New Girl, and is the best comedic piece in this film as a character that the rest of the patrons and employees constantly make fun of. His performance coupled with Deon Cole proves to be the better parts of the film. Nicki Minaj also plays well in the film for the most part before the third act where her character just goes downhill faster than, well, insert a twerking joke here. Also, and not to sound rude or offensive, I’m sometimes convinced her butt is CGIed or padded up because, of course, the director has numerous shots of it throughout the film, almost seeming like it was the only reason she was cast. Either way, it looks completely unreal.
The question about Barbershop: The Next Cut remains, was this really necessary? I really wonder why the three studios, MGM, Warner Brothers and New Line, came together and made another film in a series that bears such little fruit in return. This possibly could have been part of an Ice Cube contract deal as we will be seeing another late and final sequel in the Friday series, the last film, at the time that I’m writing, was fourteen years ago. The crazy thing is that I would have been far more interested in that movie than this one. I feel like this was just a project to give Cedric the Entertainer a sizeable movie cheque. Although Barbershop: The Next Cut wasn’t all bad, it wasn’t all that good either, so I give it a two out of five.