Politics is local in Malcolm D. Lee’s Barbershop: The Next Cut. Ice Cube reprises Calvin, the co-proprietor of a now unisex barbershop, in the gang-infested south-side of Chicago. The setting is key—it is the mainspring for the loose plot centered around, Should Calvin stay or should Calvin go? That’s because Calvin’s son, now a youth, is navigating the fraught world of middle school, tempted to join a gang run by a thug played by Tyga. Calvin’s son aside, Barbershop: The Next Cut is a workplace comedy with lots of hanging out. It is best, and funniest, when its amiable yet acerbic characters go after one another verbally, debating politics, male and female behavior, aesthetics and fashion, and Instagram. When the barbers decide to take a stand against the neighborhood violence, the movie goes in the direction of Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq. Unlike that movie, however, Barbershop: The Next Cut stays tethered to a lighthearted tone. A hard PG-13, it does not dive deeply into gang violence and drugs. At times, the movie even seems like an after school special, sentimentalizing the subject matter. But it also doesn’t offer any simple solutions and upends our expectations: When Common’s character offers a tender apology to his incensed wife (Eve), she calls him a bitch.
By Alec Julian & Carrie White