The first Barbershop was a pleasant surprise, an easygoing comedy that had its ear turned toward the community and its heart in the right place. The sequel doesn’t surprise us – we know what to expect by now – but that doesn’t make the visit any less pleasant.
Because movies are filmed months in advance, though, the topics tackled in the barbershop’s open forum are dated. Rants regarding the D.C. sniper and Bill Clinton might have fit better in the first film, which came out two years ago. The old material eventually gives way to new challenges for barbershop owner Calvin Palmer (Ice Cube) and his faithful crew of haircutters.
Quality Land Development promises change to Calvin’s Chicago neighborhood. The company is buying up established businesses to make room for a Kinko’s, a Starbucks, and a Blockbuster. Calvin doesn’t mind change, but balks when a Nappy Kutz, the SuperCuts of black hairstyles, moves in across the street. How can Calvin compete?
Barbershop 2 answers that dilemma and improves on its predecessor in the process. It’s smarter, funnier and doesn’t need to pause every fifteen minutes to make way for a slapstick ATM heist. Ice Cube almost helps us forget the debacle that was last month’s Torque. Even Eve, so one-note in the first film, gets to bat around an emotion or two this time out.
Don D. Scott, who helped write the first Barbershop, drops us right back in the film’s natural flow. The sequel upgrades in the director’s chair with the hiring of Kevin Rodney Sullivan (How Stella Got Her Groove Back), a competent storyteller with a knack for guiding an ensemble cast.
Barbershop 2 doesn’t take a little off the top but lets its vibe grow out, which allows for deeper character development, interesting subplots and a worthy backstory for the franchise’s most engaging character, Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer). Flashbacks explain how he found a safe haven in the barbershop back in the 1960s. He witnessed turning points in America’s social history through the shop’s front window – even participated in a few indirectly.
While Eddie looks back, Barbershop 2 looks forward. Queen Latifah introduces us to Gina, the head of a neighboring beauty shop. Her comedic tirades lay the groundwork for a spin-off movie, Beauty Shop, which is scheduled to hit theaters later this year.
Deleted scenes, outtake, and two commentary tracks are foremost among the ton of extras on this DVD release. Recommended.
Someone’s gettin’ a perm!
Review by Sean O’Connell © 2004 filmcritic.com