If anything, “Barbershop: The Next Cut” is full of surprises. I went in expecting a fun comedy but instead got a very ambitious (and commendable) message movie about gang violence, involved parenting, respecting women and personal accountability. The serious stuff works; the gags played for laughs don’t.
There are some rough attempts at jokes early on, but the comedy just isn’t my type of funny (admittedly, some of the wisecracks and references I just didn’t “get”). There are countless riffs on pop culture, what women want, soul food and more. The down-home dialogue makes you feel like you’ve been hanging out in a local barbershop all day and the actors speak just like normal folks. The cast has a natural, believable chemistry — you want to be around these people. Ice Cube is back as barbershop proprietor Calvin; he along with Cedric the Entertainer (Eddie), Common (Rashad), and a thoroughly entertaining Nicki Minaj (Draya) are standouts. Rounding out the likeable cast are Regina Hall, Sean Patrick Thomas, Eve, Anthony Anderson and J.B. Smoove.
Although the comedy doesn’t land a perfect 10, the dramatic elements are across-the-board compelling (even if they do get a little too preachy at times). This movie feels like a passion project for all involved and dishes out some serious themes about gang violence in a predominantly minority South Side Chicago neighborhood. The movie does a good job at shedding a light on what it must feel like to live in a community in crisis (something that most outsiders will never understand). While I am a white suburban female, I could sympathize and empathize with the characters and their day-to-day struggles. Relevant and real present-day issues are explored with sincerity. This movie is fun but its not lighthearted; it tackles racially charged political issues head on and doesn’t shy away from inviting distressing, complex and controversial questions.
I loved the film’s eventual uplifting and admirable message of empowerment, encouraging locals to take back the neighborhood and reminding us that change begins with a small first step.
My expectations for “Barbershop: The Next Cut” were a little off. I was expecting a straight-up comedy, and while there is plenty of humor, there is a serious message to this movie that gives it emotional weight that is well-earned.
I don’t remember much about the previous two “Barbershop” movies, but the Internet Movie Database tells me there were two of them. Like its predecessors, “The Next Cut” is about the titular shop on the south side of Chicago named for its owner, Calvin (Ice Cube). Most of the actors from the other two movies appear in this one, too, with the notable addition of Common, who plays Calvin’s best friend Rashad.
There are some genuinely funny moments, but “TNC’s” primary goal is to try to deal with some of the issues that we are currently grappling with in the country in a way that feels authentic. Calvin, Rashad, and the rest of the crew at the barbershop are longtime south side residents, but their beloved neighborhood is slipping away as brutal gang violence has become a way of life. Calvin and Rashad struggle as the fathers of teenage boys who see the flash and feel the allure of the gangsta lifestyle, and in the shop have to deal with the very real possibility of gun violence on a daily basis. The crew at the shop decides to stop waiting on the government to find a solution to fix these problems, and instead devises a plan to bring the warring sides together in a positive way. The issues the film grapples with are clearly important to Cube (who produced the movie) and the rest of the cast.
Although it’s dealing with weighty subject matter, “Barbershop: The Next Cut” does so with a light touch. There is a genuine chemistry between the characters, and there are plenty of fun and funny moments to keep the film from being emotionally draining.
All of that said, the film had a number of elements (particularly early on) that dragged it down. It gets off to a slow start, and much of the first 20 minutes or so left me feeling vaguely confused as the movie seemed to struggle with finding its tone. There were a number of jokes that fell flat because they were tonally confusing. Calvin and Eddie’s (Cedric the Entertainer) reaction to an early threat of potential violence being the most notable. Once it got going, however, it did pick up considerable momentum and built towards a satisfying finish.