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Barbershop 2: Back in Business

Can you still say anything you want in a barbershop? Apparently not, at least not according to Barbershop 2: Back in Business, whose barbs are aimed at celebrities rather than politicians this time around. But the lack of controversy is hardly an issue. Like its predecessor, the film's appeal rests in a charming story and a sympathetic cast of characters.


Things pick up exactly where they left off for Calvin (Ice Cube), who resolved his monetary woes and saved his shop from imminent closure, but new troubles now threaten Chicago's South Side. A conglomerate is gobbling up property across the street from Calvin's barbershop in order to open a $5 coffee bar, a video store and--worst of all--a Nappy Cuts, ''the black man's answer to Super Cuts,'' according to the developer. Calvin now has to figure out a way to stay in business now that this huge conglomerate is in town, and save the South Side from impending gentrification while he's at it. Meantime he discovers how important the shop is to the neighborhood and its residents. As the Nappy Cuts storyline unfolds, so do several subplots revolving around opinionated barbers Terri (Eve), Ricky (Michael Ealy), Jimmy (Sean Patrick Thomas), Isaac (Troy Garity) and most notably, Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer). As in the original Barbershop, Eddie delivers some of the movie's best jabs--he describes the D.C. sniper as ''the Jackie Robinson of crime'' for breaking into the white league of serial killing, for example----but his character does more than supply punch lines. Moviegoers get transported back to 1967 to understand how Eddie landed at job at the barbershop and why he's still there 37 years later.


Barbershop 2 had the luxury of building on the original's robust cast of characters, all of whom returned for this sequel. Although they haven't changed physically, they've all grown in other ways: Cube's Calvin, for example, may still look the same, but fatherhood has transformed him; he isn't just thinking about the bottom line these days, he's concerned about how his business will benefit his family and their community. This is still one of Cube's best roles, one that showcases the actor's tender, down-to-earth side. It is Cedric's Eddie, however, who gets most of the attention and the biggest facelift. His present-day character will be familiar, but we see a completely different side of Eddie as the film goes back in time to show key events in his past, including several hair-raising hours at the barbershop the night Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968. Eve's character Terri has learned to keep a lid on her temper, while Ricky is secretly working on getting his GED--and the tension that practically had these two in fisticuffs in Barbershop takes a sexual turn in the sequel. Queen Latifah is added to the film's already great cast as Gina, who owns the beauty shop next door, and her appearance serves as a launching pad for her upcoming spin-off Beauty Shop. All in all, these are fabulous performances.


Director Kevin Rodney Sullivan, who made his feature directorial debut with How Stella Got Her Groove Back, takes Barbershop 2 in a different direction than the original, but he does so without compromising the original film's sincerity. The movie's foundation, Calvin's barbershop and its staff, is the same, but scribe Don D. Scott cut out much of the slapstick that dominated Barbershop and replaced it with a handful of subplots revolving around returning the barbershop characters. Sullivan runs with their stories and really fleshes out the characters audiences have grown to love, especially Eddie, whose 1960s way of life is revisited in black-and-white flashbacks. Back in the present, however, Eddie's jokes are far less controversial than the original; there'll be none of the hullabaloo we saw last time over Cedric's Rosa Parks and Jesse Jackson monologues. The comedian pokes fun at easy targets this time, including Michael Jackson and R. Kelly, but his off-the-cuff diatribes are just as funny. Contentious or not, we are reminded that this is still in large part Cedric's show.

Bottom Line

The entire cast of the 2002 comedy returns for the sequel, which this time round has been sheared of the original's slapstick humor and infused with some insightful character development. Overall, Barbershop 2 is a sweet comedy minus the sap, hilarious yet devoid of crudity, and political without ever being preachy.