After 12 long years, Ice Cube and his entourage of barbers and hair stylists arrive yet again in movie theaters for “Barbershop: The Next Cut” – the third installment in the Barbershop franchise. While many might doubt the ability to follow the movie’s story without viewing the prequels, Next Cut’s introductory scenes and loose narrative structure make it equally pleasing for series fans and newcomers completely oblivious to the former outings alike.
Following tough economic times in the South Side of Chicago, Ice Cube’s Calvin Palmer now co-owns his barbershop with business partner Angie (Regina Hall). They are faithfully served by a cohort of other employees, which includes Palmer’s friends Terri (Eve) and her husband Rashad, played by Common. From the onset it becomes clear that “Barbershop” is not the typical movie experience. While the camera does roam about the South Side, the majority is shot within the confines of Palmer’s fine establishment. The only difference is that this time round, the barbershop is equal parts men and women, creating a battle of the sexes atmosphere ripe for hilarious comedic material. This enclosed space is utilized perfectly by veterans such as Cedric the Entertainer, playing the aging Eddie, and also by newcomers such as Nicki Minaj’s Draya. Almost everyone ends up bolstering the fun factor of the movie, from Anthony Anderson to J.B. Smoove.
The viewing experience can be stifling at times, forcing the audience to ask when, or if, they’ll ever get to see something besides a hair salon interior. But sooner rather than later, the setting grows on the viewer, and the infamous barbershop experience where people talk about everything and nothing, quickly takes over. In between the frequent jabs the men and women take at each other in the laughs department, there’s an equally powerful and significant debate on more worldly matters, from sexism to racism, political stagnation to crime. It is this last topic that becomes the central theme for the entire movie, as South Side experiences an escalation in gang-related activity, some hitting closer to home.
Calvin’s and Rashad’s sons, Jalen and Kenny, respectively, are teetering on the edge of destruction, growing ever closer to being lured into a local gang headlined by Yummy (Tyga). It is primarily this storyline which allows the audience to explore the world outside the barbershop, and it’s a well needed respite from the shenanigans brewing within the business, which includes a confusing love triangle subplot between Terri, Rashad and Draya. Jalen’s and Kenny’s identity crises push both fathers into unchartered waters, testing their relationships with each other and their sons, giving the movie the dramatic punch it required but couldn’t necessarily find with the other actors. This doesn’t mean that they’re left on the sidelines, as the entire army of characters decides to find out if their business can be the neighborhood’s solution and saving grace.
Despite this, the dramatic undertones, which definitely resonate with the present social climate in America, lacked a strong punch to the gut. When the script decides to become serious, it’s too heavy-handed, with the characters spewing out exposition, choosing the easy way out as opposed to subtler means of communication. While the dialogue raises some much needed questions about today’s society as well as some harsh truths, the loose story of “Barbershop” gives it the feel of an extra-long episode of “The View,” only this time with more men sitting on the couch. This isn’t a criticism. In fact, it’s something endearing about the movie, to see both men and women duking it out to elicit laughs and also more thoughtful responses over prevalent social issues. “Barbershop” isn’t a life changer, but it isn’t a snooze fest either by any means. It possesses enough laughs and heart to get through its somewhat cliched story and dialogue.