No one expected there to be a Barbershop 3. Not even Ice Cube, who led the previous two installments stoically, allowing the likes of Cedric The Entertainer and Anthony Anderson to bring the funny. But Hollywood’s insatiable desire for a sequel is so strong that Warner Bros, looking to profit from the recent impressive response of urban films at the box office, have decided to return to the South Side of Chicago to extend a franchise that most of us assumed would remain dormant.
The fact that Barbershop and Barbershop 2: Back In Business are more appreciated rather than adored means that Barbershop: The Next Cut doesn’t have to worry about damaging any legacy. But it’s at its best when it follows the same traits that made the first two films connect with an audience.
This time time around Ice Cube’s Calvin and the rest of his barbershop posse have grown tired of the increasing gun and gang violence that is overwhelming their block and shop on the South Side of Chicago. They look to do something about it by organizing a 48-hour cease fire between the gangs in exchange for free haircuts.
Stepping back into the Barbershop is actually rather homely and warm. It feels like old times watching Ice Cube, Eve, and Cedric The Entertainer cutting hair again while taking part in lively and spirited banter with one another, as the variety of topics range from racism in America, the Kardashians, Beyonce, Bill Cosby, all the way to Barack Obama and gun violence.
The new barbers Regina Hall, Nicki Minaj, Lamorne Morris, Common, and Margot Bingham each add their own flair, too, as do Anthony Anderson, J.B. Smoove, and Deon Cole, who inhabit the establishment for other needs, all of which allows The Next Cut to feel fresh despite being in familiar surroundings.
And while the original Barbershop films relied heavily on Cedric The Entertainer for humor, the extended cast are able to add their own quips this time around, which allows The Next Cut to smoothly and quickly flow from one joke to another. When Barbershop: The Next Cut is aiming to be humorous it works. But it ultimately fall flat because it tries to shoe-horn in dramatic plots that just feel forced.
What makes the failure of the main dramatic storyline so disappointing is that it tries to tackle an issue that’s depressingly rife in the South Side of Chicago: gun and gang violence. Unfortunately, it’s presented in a ham-fisted, contrived and predictable fashion, which feels as though it belongs in a soap opera. Director Malcolm D. Lee, who deserves praise for his concise handling of the comedic elements, even leans heavily on cheesy musical cues to hammer home the supposed severity of the scenes, which only undermines them.
Meanwhile, the trio of Common, Eve and Nicki Minaj and the duo of Ice Cube and Regina Hall have romantic and business subplots, respectively, which each could be resolved within minutes by the characters actually talking to one another, but instead they are stretched out over the course of the film.
Like its predecessors, though, Barbershop: The Next Cut still displays a humungous heart and its message about the importance of community deserves to be embraced. Pity then that the delivery of this message lacks any of the flavor, edge or entertainment of its comedy. Because if it had, then Barbershop: The Next Cut would eclipse the quality of both of its predecessors. But instead it just nestles firmly in the middle of them.