The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Barbershop: The Next Cut

Barbershop was like a breath of fresh air when it was released in 2002. Entertaining and funny, the movie created a fictional location that it was fun to hang out in for two hours, thanks to the colorful characters who inhabited it and the lively discussions they had. Barbershop 2: Back in Business got a little too bogged down in plot, while the spinoff called Beauty Shop was a flat attempt at carbon copying the original. Barbershop: The Next Cut, on DVD and Blu-ray July 26, is the first one to really get a semblance of the first movie's charm back. It's easily the best of the sequels.

Ice Cube returns as Calvin, the owner of a barbershop on the South side of Chicago. His business partner is Angie (Regina Hall), who runs the adjacent salon. Calvin is frustrated by all the violence taking place in the neighborhood, especially since his teenage son Jalen (Michael Rainey, Jr.) seems to be gravitating toward gang activity. He and the others – including best friend/fellow barber Rashad (Common), stylist Draya (Nicki Minaj), and mainstay Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer) – come up with a plan to call attention to the problem: they host a 48-hour “cease fire” where they offer gang members free haircuts so long as they lay off the shooting.

The Next Cut really recreates what was so special about the first Barbershop. Most of it is set in the workplace, where we listen to the characters, who all have different viewpoints, discuss and debate relevant issues. These movies have never been afraid to get political, and this one is no different. (Topic run the gamut from Justin Bieber to Black Lives Matter.) Calvin and the others explore the impact inner city violence has on communities, the possible causes for it, and how it can be stopped. Most interestingly, Calvin suggests that decent people haven't done enough to assert their influence in neighborhoods because they're too afraid of being targeted themselves. Some very provocative ideas are raised in The Next Cut, although the screenplay by Kenya Barris and Tracy Oliver always makes sure to temper the heaviest moments with character-based humor.

As before, the performances are quite good, with Ice Cube as the standout. In the role of Calvin, he's been able to soften his trademark intensity so that it becomes the character's sincere conscientiousness. We can tell that Calvin is a guy who truly cares about the world around him because Cube makes that quality so palpable. The other really strong performance comes from Cedric the Entertainer, whose Eddie has some humorously outdated points of view.

There may be a little too much going on in Barbershop: The Next Cut. A subplot about whether Draya is trying to steal Rashad away from his wife Terri (Eve) feels a bit off base, considering the social relevance of the main story. And as admirable as the film's message – stop complaining about problems in your community and do something about them – is, it's hard to deny that the characters' solution is perhaps a bit on the simplistic side. The issue of inner city violence is certainly more complicated than it's presented here.

Then again, this isn't supposed to be an in-depth treatise on the subject. It's supposed to be an entertaining, but still substantive story about the importance of taking action. Barbershop: The Next Cut nicely recaptures the original's vibe of hanging out at Calvin's place, talking about the world's problems, pop culture, and even a little gossip. It's nice to have this series back on track.

( out of four)

Blu-ray Features:

Barbershop: The Next Cut hits DVD and Blu-ray on July 26. There are only a few bonus features, but they aren't bad. “Barbershop Bootcamp” runs about five minutes and focuses on the instruction the actors had to have in order to convincingly look like they know how to cut hair. It's a small detail, but one that adds a bit of authenticity to the movie. A two-minute gag reel is here, too. It's fairly amusing, but doesn't have any huge laughs.

Finally, there are twelve minutes of deleted scenes, with introduction from director Malcolm D. Lee. Most notably, they reveal a deleted subplot in which one of the barbers, the nervous Jarrod (played by New Girl's Lamorne Morris), gets friend-zoned by a woman he thinks he's dating. There's a touch of uncomfortable homophobic humor in this thread, but Morris gives a legitimately funny physical performance that's worth seeing.

The picture and sound quality on the disc are excellent. Given the R&B soundtrack, the latter is especially important.

Barbershop: The Next Cut is rated PG-13 for sexual material and language. The running time is 1 hour and 51 minutes.

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