Film Reviewed by Michael Dequina
Barbershop 2: Back in Business (PG-13)
The subtitle of Barbershop 2: Back in Business pretty much sums up the film. almost all the elements contributing to the original’s sleeper success are back, and accordingly this film more than recalls the first. All of the principal cast members are back in their familiar roles, most notably Cedric the Entertainer as veteran cutter Eddie, he of the indiscreetly outspoken mind. This film, like the first, feels a little ramshackle in its episodic pacing, but there is more of a concentrated plot interest this time out’the proposed revamping of the shop’s South Side block, not least of which includes a slick, franchised haircutting establishment located directly across the street. However, any new plot wrinkles are used to reinforce the familiar overlying theme of the importance of history and community.
But that latter point is the key to why the first film, and, hence, this sequel works: a warm sense of heart, and this return visit to Calvin’s Barbershop is like settling back in with old friends. As in life, all of the familiar characters’Eddie, proprietor Calvin Jr. (Ice Cube), sassy Terri (Eve), ex-con Ricky (Michael Ealy), Nigerian immigrant Dinka (Leonard Earl Howze), uppity Jimmy (Sean Patrick Thomas) and cocky Isaac (Troy Garity)—have all moved on a bit since we last them, but they all remain the distinct personalities we warmly (and, at times, not so warmly) recall. New director Kevin Rodney Sullivan, taking over for Tim Story, wisely doesn’t try to fix what isn’t broken, instead simply realistically building on the characters’ established personalities and life directions. Of course, some of the characters’ lives are more changed than others—most notably Jimmy, who has left the shop for a job with an alderman (Robert Wisdom)—and there is one major new face: Calvin’s wife’s clumsy cousin Kenard (Kenan Thompson), who just his barber’s license. In true sequel form, there is an expanded role for the original’s fan favorite scene-stealer: Eddie, whose back story is further fleshed out; but instead of coming off as a blatant attempt to simply give Cedric the Entertainer more screen time, his flashback thread organically fits into the bigger picture.
What doesn’t fit into the bigger picture, however, is Queen Latifah’s cameo role as Gina, an ex-flame of Calvin’s and a sharp-tongued stylist at the beauty shop next door. While there is an undeniably amusing argument scene between Gina and Eddie, Sullivan and writer Don D. Scott can’t quite disguise that Latifah’s fairly fleeting presence serves no purpose other than to set up what in sitcom land is called a "planted spinoff"’the gimmick of introducing a single-shot guest star/character within a successful series for the express purpose of spinning the actor/character off into their own vehicle. And, indeed, the Latifah/Gina-starring Beauty Shop is on the drawing board for release this fall. Much like how Calvin’s homey neighborhood is slowly being touched by slick commerce, how fitting that the appealingly laid-back Barbershop series’in a sequel subtitled Back in Business, no less’would itself be infected by bald-faced commercialism.
But such is the nature of the beast when it comes to movie sequels; after all, the reason for this film’s existence is to capitalize on the original’s financial success. As Calvin concludes, however, progress in the name of the dollar can bring much good in addition to the bad, and ultimately that notion holds true in the case of Barbershop 2, which retains the charm and humor that made the first film so winning.
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