Wednesday, April 20, 2016

[Review] Barbershop: The Next Cut

Brush up the clippers! Barbershop: The Next Cut revisits the old spot for the third installment of the Barbershop series--12 years after the release of Barbershop 2. Has it really been that long? This one just so happens to be the best of the bunch. The film maintains its comedic roots, but it trades in some of the laughs for a tone that is more serious than the usual.

Ice Cube, Cedric the Entertainer, and Eve are still at it. And this time they're joined by Regina Hall, Nicki Minaj, and Common. Once the jokes fly, the gossip ensues, and the occasional roasts are laid, it feels like we never left. The crew is still prideful of their Southside Chicago community, but things haven't been so great lately, as gang warfare and murder rates have risen to beyond-alarming levels. Calvin (Ice Cube's character) now has to focus on straying his own son away from the guns and drugs lifestyle (or randomly getting caught between it). Calvin even contemplates packing up the whole shop and relocating. But before that, the influential hair joint strives to promote a #ceasefire weekend.

Aside from the hilarious banter about social media antics and pop culture (and by 'pop culture' I mean Kanye West and Kim Kardashian of course), there's a lot of relevant commentary on modern relationships, double standards, racism, politics, and violence in the streets. The timely dialogue and narrative is carried out in a thoughtful and progressive manner. Director Malcom D. Lee, along with writers Kenya Barris (creator of ABC's "Black-ish") and Tracy Oliver, seem to have more clearly and successfully accomplished what Spike Lee attempted in last year's divisive and operatic Chi-Raq.

The Next Cut is mostly smooth, but it's not without a couple of slip-ups. Lamorne Morris plays a rookie barber who is primarily used as comic relief amidst the "ish just got real" moments, which would be fine if the majority of those lines didn't fall flat (which isn't all his fault). Tyga is miscast here as a prominent gang leader. The cartoony cheese and the shades of his ridiculed rap persona can't help but bleed through. Fortunately, even Tyga can't bring this great film down. Ice Cube's hearty performance, as well as Cedric the Entertainer's consistently funny presence make up for the mishaps.

What's so striking about the film is the way it faces Chicago's rampant murder crisis. It places the topic at the story's forefront and hits hard with heartfelt emotion. The film also manages to shine a light of hope amidst the ongoing tragedies, and gives powerful testament to keep up the fight for peace.

* 8.8/10 *

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