The barbershop is "Back in Business" and its existence is once again threatened. Last time a greedy loan-shark wanted to buy the landmark shop from its owner Calvin (Ice Cube), this time it's a greedy franchiser named Quentin Leroux (Harry Lennix) who has purchased the property across the street and has transformed it into a Nappy Cutz; one of several snazzy stores that is the "black man's answer to Supercuts."
Oh and wait until you see what a black man's version of Supercuts is. This place offers bikini waxing, several flat screen televisions for customer enjoyment, and a basketball court that I guess would be used by patrons waiting to be served and customers with nowhere else to go after they get their haircut. Oh and let's not forget the fish tank.
Nappy Cutz isn't the only thing moving into Chicago. Several larger companies are buying out lots to modernize the city, forcing all the mom-and-pop stores to close down or relocate elsewhere.
But in the meantime Calvin's barbershop is in full swing. The entire crew is back from the first film, but I immediately noticed that the characters aren't as fun as they were the first time around. I gave the first "Barbershop" a 'B+' because the movie primary dealt with an interesting bunch of barbers and I enjoyed their stories. Their appeal has quickly faded.
Terri (Eve), the only female barber, was bitter the last time we saw her because someone was always drinking her apple juice. She's still bitter, and angry and unpleasant as she mopes around arguing with Ricky (Michael Ealy) all the time, the one who was always getting into trouble with the law. Ricky never shows up to work on time and the other barbers suspect he's messing around with "Shaniqua from the strip club" or is out causing trouble. Otherwise why would he be late everyday? We of course know he's got a reason, a redeeming one that will win us over in the end.
Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer) has a much bigger role this time, and he continues to talk a lot. I'm sure what he says is funny but I could never understand a word he was saying. The only white barber, Isaac (Troy Garity), was cool and down-to-earth in the first movie, but now he acts as if we should be impressed that he's a white guy doing a black barber's job. In one scene he's asked by Calvin to run an errand, but rather than comply he argues and says he's too good to do dirty work.
You may remember the soft and charming Dinka (Leonard Earl Howze) last time around. He's still that way even though out of all the characters, he needed to change the most. In love with Terri, we wonder when he will find closure. Jimmy (Sean Patrick Thomas) no longer cuts at the barbershop because he now works for Alderman Brown (Robert Wisdom), an evil politician aligned with the owner of Nappy Cutz to make large profits and drive tradition out of Chicago.
The film has two newbies. Replacing Jimmy is Calvin's cousin Kenard (Nickelodeon's Kenan Thompson), a rookie barber who has less talent at cutting hair than a man with no hands. And the other is Gina (Queen Latifah), a stylist at the salon next door who says if she could get with any white guy it would be Mini Me from "Austin Powers" because, well…ah just use your imagination. Her best moment comes when she gets into a verbal war with Eddie at the barbershop barbeque. Gina is kind of bitter because at one point Calvin could have had her, but instead he chose the "Happy Meal instead of a Super Size."
"Barbershop 2" isn't as funny as the original, but it had its moments. And I kinda liked it, but the tone is nowhere near as light and pleasant as it was in the first movie. Because the story of this installment is about the threatened barbershop -- the only business to survive the 1968 Chicago riots that started after Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination, and continue its run until the present day -- we are often presented with flashbacks that tell us how Cedric the Entertainer's Eddie came about, and how he saved the store by preventing a protester from firebombing it. It's a serious moment, and a theme I would love to see explored in a movie, but not in a comedy whose first film had Anthony Anderson spending the entire film stealing and hiding an ATM that turned out to be empty.
In order to save the neighborhood, Calvin speaks before the townspeople and the City Council currently deliberating whether or not to allow the contractors to take over South Side Chicago with their $5-coffee shops and nightclubs. Calvin's speech is so good that I wondered if he was a professional public speaker on the side; either that or if he spent a lot of time in front of a mirror. It was a fluffy end to another scene that didn't feel like "Barbershop".
But even after all that I was still prepared to recommend the movie, that is until the scene where Cedric heckles a poor unsuspecting (extremely white) white guy on the city bus. This is the route some movies go to get laughs, and I would expect that kind of material from comedians like Dave Chappelle. And I usually enjoy that. There's nothing wrong with black vs. white humor, but "Barbershop" was at a different level, or maybe writer Don D. Scott was running out of ideas.
I left the first film wanting to hang out after barbershop closing hours to listen to the characters talk and interact with one another. The conversations are still fun as Eddie one-ups his Rosa Park comments with some about the D.C. sniper and Luther Vandross, but this time I almost wanted to slip out before my number got called.