[Screen It]


(2016) (Ice Cube, Common) (PG-13)

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Comedy: The staff of a South Side Chicago unisex salon deal with changing local demographics that has brought a violent criminal element into their neighborhood.
Calvin (ICE CUBE) and Eddie (CEDRIC THE ENTERTAINER) continue to run their South Side Chicago barbershop. But hard times have fallen on their neighborhood. Not only did the Great Recession impact business, compelling them to form a partnership with women's salon operator Angie (REGINA HALL), but now a criminal element has taken over the nearby streets and side streets. For the first time ever, Calvin and his wife, Terri (EVE), are seriously contemplating moving the business to the North Side to give their son, Jalen (MICHAEL RAINEY JR.), a better chance to avoid falling prey to the street gang life.

Meanwhile, it's business as usual at the shop with the daily gossip, political ramblings, and arguments of the stylists and customers. Rashad (COMMON), who is married to Jennifer (JAZSMIN LEWIS), is having to fend off the advances of his temptress coworker, Draya (NICKI MINAJ). Jerrod (LAMORNE MORRIS) has to keep convincing everyone he's not gay. Fortunately, he's caught the eye of his coworker, Bree (MARGOT BINGHAM). Raja (UTKARSH AMBUDKAR) is the only non-black worker in the shop and frequently gets into funny racial arguments with his fellow staffers and clientele. And One-Stop (J.B. SMOOVE) tries to be all things to all people -- barber, real estate agent, healthcare professional, etc.

The neighborhood, meanwhile, is full of colorful characters -- some good, some bad, and some straddling the line between both good and bad. J.D. (ANTHONY ANDERSON) runs what he claims is a nonprofit food truck business. But he's clearly turning a handsome profit for himself. Jimmy (SEAN PATRICK THOMAS) is a former barber at the shop, who has now become a city elected official whose policies are not always in the best interests of the community. And Dante (DEON COLE) is the guy who always seems to be in the shop even though he doesn't actually work there. They all come together in a big charity weekend to provide free hair services in return for a pause in the local violence that has claimed too many young black lives.

OUR TAKE: 5.5 out of 10
Well, I guess this is just the year that the movies are going to be preaching to me. I've certainly seen my fair share of faith-based films in 2016 that have informed me God's not dead, miracles from Heaven are possible, and that there was a Roman centurion who performed his own "Law & Order"-esque investigation in the wake of Christ's Crucifixion and found that He has risen indeed. Now, we're getting deeper into the year, and the preaching is undoubtedly turning to modern social issues. I label these "Why Aren't You Doing More?!" flicks.

Case in point, the latest "Barbershop" sequel (subtitled "The Next Cut"). The film contains all of the funny byplay, dust-ups, and he-said/she-said back-and-forths of the first two films. But now the characters live in a very different South Side Chicago from the ones seen on screen in, I believe, 2002 and 2004. There's been no recovery from the Great Recession, and Calvin (Ice Cube) and Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer) have been forced to partner with stylist Angie (Regina Hall) and turn their barbershop into a trendy unisex salon to maintain sales and foot traffic. At the same time, the violence in their community continues to escalate with gun shots now common and muggings a way of life.

It's so bad that a former barber, Jimmy (Sean Patrick Thomas), is now a city elected official and he is spearheading a campaign to wall off the old neighborhood and restrict car traffic into and out of the community. When Calvin recognizes his own son, Jalen (Michael Rainey Jr.), starting to become enamored of the gang lifestyle, he secretly begins to make plans to move him and his family and his business to the safer North Side.

Director Malcolm D. Lee and screenwriters Kenya Barris and Tracy Oliver do a good job plopping these characters back into their roles and giving them new trials and tribulations without going too heavy. The film still works best when Calvin and Co. are just sitting around talking about the battle of the sexes, busting each other's chops, and concocting theories about the sanctity of President Obama's marriage. The gear-shifting to the more heavy stuff, however, is a bit clunky in spots. And several times, characters darn-near appear to be talking right at the audience through the screen.

I do give all concerned points for setting this in the real South Side Chicago and not some idealized, fantasy version of it. Lee's direction is efficient, even if it doesn't have a lot of art to it. I'd estimate at least two-thirds of the film takes place in the shop, so it's often like watching a stage play. But the characters remain accessible, and enough time has passed between the second and this third film that I looked forward to catching up with Calvin, Eddie, Terri, J.D., Jimmy and Isaac, while also meeting Common's frayed family man Rashad, Nicki Minaj's temptress coworker Draya, and others.

It's all a little too neatly wrapped up in the end for my tastes. For a film that did a good job showing the messiness of inner-city urban life, the problems its screenplay brings up are not really resolved and the questions asked are not really answered even though the script kind of pretends they are. Still, I give the film points for likability, for some fun casting, and for a broader-audience PG-13 rating. That adds up in my book to about a 5.5 out of 10. (T. Durgin)

Reviewed April 12, 2016 / Posted April 15, 2016

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