By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
Barbershop: The Next Cut exists in a universe both familiar and not. On the one hand, Ice Cube, Eve, and, of course, Cedric the Entertainer: Cranky Old Man Edition haven’t changed a bit, but in the 12 years since Barbershop 2 Cube’s got a new life-long best friend (Common) married to Eve, both have 14-ish year old sons, Nicky Minaj, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and New Girl happened, and as for South Side Chicago…
It’s been better
Barbershop: The Next Cut has two big things going for it. First, if you enjoyed any of the films in the franchise up until now, you’ll absolutely enjoy this one. The cast may have added as many new faces as it had in its old roster, but all are a nice fit in the comfortable old clothes of the franchise. New Girl‘s Lamorne Morris as a new, more new media-minded barber, steals scenes as consistently as he does in that show, and J.B. Smoove as a businessman/shuckster not above any way to make a buck is a comic ace up the sleeve of this as well as every other project he’s in. Even Nicky Minaj is perfectly as a fine hairdresser/ flirtatious temptation for Common.
Secondly, this movie doesn’t shy away from some heavy topics that are real conversation fodder across the country. Gun violence, particularly the truly insane scale of it in Chicago these days, is both talked about and fuels a subplot about Ice Cube’s son that’s probably the film’s most effective. However, Obama and the mixed reviews his presidency has drawn from the African American community and comparing the situation of immigrants making a life for themselves in America vs. the obstacles African Americans face in doing the same, among other heavy topics, are also touched on. This film is committed to an important dialogue that most mainstream entertainment avoids like the plague.
That’s not saying that any of this is examined particularly deeply. For every high-minded topic, there’s at least two broad, played out jokes that smack of writers dusting off a Barbershop 3 script that’s been at the bottom of the pile for about a decade. There’s even a 3 minute argument over R. Kelly’s pedofilia, goddammit.
This last word on the subject is 10 years old.
There’s also just enough sexist or gay-joke driven material content to feel a little oily in This Year of Our Lord 2016, although admittedly most of it comes from Cedric’s ageless and aged old man persona. Don’t worry, there’s a Cosby joke, too.
Pretty much the same as the others, there’s a healthy does of soap opera plotting, particularly the Common/Eve/Minaj triangle, which mixes poorly with the comedy. Common’s often deadly serious demeanor feels like it belongs in an entirely different film than Cedric’s mugging. This feels particularly bizarre when the film ends its serious relationship drama with a threesome joke in which Common’s character does a complete 180.
Barbershop: The Next Cut is a familiar, comfortable, amusing comic concoction, with a sneakily and very welcome political bent.
Barbershop: The Next Cut Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for pop culture put-downs
Take a Drink: for that signature Ice Cube grimace
Take a Drink: “Obama”
Take a Drink: for guns
Do a Shot: whenever Nicky Minaj’s dimensions threaten your understanding of the laws of time and space