It’s been 12 years since Ice Cube starred in a Barbershop movie – he’s back to reprise his role as Calvin in Barbershop: The Next Cut.
The third Barbershop installment (fourth in the series if you count 2005’s Beauty Shop) has some familiar faces – Cedric the Entertainer, Sean Patrick Thomas, Eve, and Jazmin Lewis. It also has a few new faces – Common as Rashad – Terri’s (Eve) husband/Calvin’s friend/barber, Anthony Anderson as J.D – the food truck guy, J.B Smoove as One-Stop – the neighborhood guy who has his hands in a little bit of everything, Nicki Minaj as Draya – the video vixen looking woman who you don’t trust around your man. There are also comedic relief form newcomers Lamorne Morris (Jerrod), Utkarsh Ambudkar (Raja), Margot Bingham (Bree) and Deon Cole (Dante).
A lot has changed since Barbershop 2: Back in Business and the opening of Next Cut does its best to address it. The biggest issue being the high murder rate in Chicago.
With Chicago’s rising gang/gun violence as its backdrop, Next Cut’s plot revolves around Calvin trying to provide a better life for his family and keep his teenage son away from gangs. Without telling anyone in the shop, Calvin plans on moving the shop to avoid the daily shootings outside of his shop on the Southside. Meanwhile, Terri and Rashad are having some martial issues that need ironing out.
Next Cut isn’t a straight forward comedy, the writers Kenya Barris and Tracy Oliver bring up some heavy topics. There is plenty of “barbershop banter” about Instagram, men’s fantasies, R. Kelly, what Obama is doing for the community, women cooking, and police violence. There are even moments when characters give brief monologues about what they think the community can or should do. None of these topics are really discussed in-depth and there’s never any real solutions brought up. Most of these issues are discussed in 140 character sound bites. It’s as if someone took a bunch of Black Twitter conversations and sprinkled them throughout the movie.
There are also plenty of gratuitous shots of Nicki Minaj in various tight pants and low cut shirts for the two people in the world who’ve never seen Nicki Minaj In a video… on stage…at the Grammys… on Instagram…
The writers took a big chance trying mix problems in the community with barbershop humor. These sorts of conversations happen in barbershops across the country all the time, but they’re usually organic. The “serious scenes” could’ve had characters literally standing on soapboxes and they wouldn’t have felt preachier.
Even when something bad happens, it’s hard to care because the story doesn’t spend enough time with the characters. It’s especially hard to care when you tag the intense conversations with a Cedric the Entertainer joke.
Next Cut really struggles with its characters. None of the relationships are believable, but let’s use Common’s character Rashad as an example. During the title sequence they briefly explain who Rashad is, but when the movie starts it’s unclear if he’s still married to Terri. Are they divorced? Are they separated? It shouldn’t matter but their relationship is a reoccurring storyline in the film. Then there’s Rashad’s relationship with his son Kenny (Diallo Thompson). Rashad literally speaks to his son once in the entire film. Seriously, one time. Even during the film’s climatic moment, Kenny runs to talk to Calvin, not his father. At no point is Rashad believable as a father, as friend, or as a husband. I’m not even sure we see him cut hair in this movie. His character may only be good for a few fake deep monologues, but that’s about it.
It doesn’t help that Common recites his lines like he’s reading form a cue card.
Barbershop: The Next Cut isn’t a bad film. It’s just another movie that tries to do too much and ends up not doing anything at all. You walkaway knowing there are issues in Chicago that need to be fixed, but anyone with a television walked into the theater knowing that. The film’s post credit features some good things happening in Chicago to stop the violence. For some reason, none of those solutions are mentioned or shown in the movie. The story is a lot more entertaining than it has any business being. Well placed jokes and one-liners from Morris, Cole, Bingham, Ambudkar, and Smoove are the only bright spots for a film that would be terrible without them.