“Barbershop 2: Back in Business” is clearly setting the stage for a franchise, something that MGM has been trying to wrestle control of over the last year with near misses like “Legally Blonde” and obvious stumbles like “Jeepers Creepers.” This time, it looks like the barbers from the south side of Chicago might be able to do it.
Already, the Queen Latifah vehicle “Beauty Shop” is on its way to theaters, giving the black woman’s POV to the male-dominated “Barbershop” story. In fact, “Barbershop 2” provides several teaser scenes of the Beauty Shop, which is right next door to the neighborhood barbershop.
In this new film, Calvin (Ice Cube) has gotten over his money trouble and is trying to keep his barbershop alive in the south side of Chicago. However, a greedy corporation is tainting the ‘hood with chains serving overpriced coffee and renting high priced videos. The last straw is when a “Nappy Cutz” salon chain rents the building across the street.
Calvin tries to keep up his competition as the opening of Nappy Cutz looms and ultimately learns what makes his business popular with the locals. Former barber Jimmy (Sean Patrick Thomas) is trying to convince his new boss, Alderman Brown (Robert Wisdom) to help support the family owned businesses on the south side, but the corrupt Alderman has different plans.
The plot isn’t exactly the driving force in this film. It uses the standard Scooby Doo cliche of a developer wanting to take over an area. Often, the film wanders off the beaten path to look closer at one of the high-strung characters. But who’s really paying too much attention to the plot in these films? In many ways, we’re just waiting for Cedric the Entertainer or Queen Latifah to launch the latest insult to each other. And that stuff is pretty funny.
There are plenty of familiar faces behind the booths, including Eve as the feisty Terri and Troy Garity as Isaac, the “Eminem of black barbers.” It is interesting to note that Isaac’s “signature” at the bottom of a haircut is a script “i,” which also happens to be the logo for Interscope records, who produced the soundtrack. This is one of the most shrewdly t integrated product placements I’ve seen since the character of Lisa Catera (which sounds alarming like “Lease a Catera”) was introduced to “Chicago Hope”
When the first “Barbershop” came out, I heard Ice Cube explain why the black barbershop is such a great setting for a movie. In a black barbershop, anything and everything can be said. It’s a place to not just get your hair cut, but to hear bumping music and razz your friends. This is, of course, unlike the typical white-bread barbershops I’ve been to most of my life. Here, you’ll just hear laid back musings about the latest OSU football game, or possibly a political discussion thrown in here and there. (And it’s a far cry from the $8.99 Fantastic Sam’s family salon, where I once listened to the guy cutting my hair go on and on about how “Steel Magnolias” was one of the greatest films ever made.)
Throughout the film, we are taken through a retrospective of the barbershop from when it was owned by Calvin’s dad in the 1960s. We see this through Eddie’s eyes, who first stumbled into the barbershop during the 4th of July in the late 1960s. We see his fleeting love with the lovely Loretta and his courage during the 1968 riots when Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot. These are fun, often bittersweet, and sometimes inspiring.
Ice Cube has a certain presence that is actually quite warm and charming when he’s not trying to be a badass. Sure, his roles in “Ghosts of Mars” and “Torque” were laughable and campy, but in the “Friday” and “Barbershop” movies, he has a relatability as an everyman. Unlike too-slick-for-words action star Will Smith, Ice Cube plays a great working class stiff in the everyday world.
There’s a lot of similarities between “Barbershop 2” and the “Friday” sequels. They are all made in the same flavor, all produced for relatively low budgets and all happen to be pretty funny. Like “Next Friday” and “Friday After Next,” “Barbershop 2” lets the audience have some pretty good laughs. It ain’t high art, but it is a fun flick.
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