Barbershop: The Next Cut (a.k.a. Barbershop: A Fresh Cut) (2016)
Directed by Malcolm D. Lee
Starring Ice Cube, Robert Teitel, Cedric the Entertainer, Regina Hall, Sean Patrick Thomas, Eve, Anthony Anderson, Jazsmin Lewis-Kelley, Common, Nicki Minaj, Margot Bingham, Lamorne Morris, Deon Cole, Reggie Brown, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Tyga, J.B. Smoove, Deon Cole
Employees at the barbershop look to solve the gang-related violence that has taken its hold on the local community.
It’s been 12 years since the last outing of the Barbershop franchise (11 if you want to include its spin-off), and it’s nice to see many of them return as well as the arrival of some new faces. As these films have gained greater recognition and a growing fan-base over years, one glaring concern would be that of quality: could they recapture the magic and chemistry given the time-lapse? Could the director of Scary Movie 5 live up to such standards? And could newcomers like Nicki Minaj, J.B. Smoove, and Tyga seamlessly integrate themselves into the group dynamics? The short answer is yes, and more.
Calvin’s (Ice Cube) barbershop is no longer a boy’s club, and has merged with Angie’s (Regina Hall) hairdressing salon to keep the business above water i.e. the recession effected everyone, so competition is fierce. The barbershop still has its regular customers, and the new employees have made themselves at home. What has been bad for business has been the trigger-happy gangsters between two rival sanctions that are fighting over the neighbourhood turf.
This plotline is not too dissimilar to the franchises previous outings i.e. the rinse & repeat formula of ‘the shop is under threat, how can Calvin and his crew save it’ yet, this still doesn’t fell stale. Cynically speaking, one could dismiss this as a plight on modern cinema, in the notion that we as audiences have become too afraid of anything new. While that may have some weight to it – I shall take up such issues in due course – what benefits this film is really the chemistry among its cast members. In the first instance, as the film establishes both the old and the new cast members, it delves itself headfirst into part-nostalgia and part-new-beginnings. It doesn’t waste its time in establishing the likes of Draya (Nicki Minaj) and Raja (Utkarsh Ambudkar), and where they stand in this barbershop/hairdressers dynamics.
Furthermore, some of the old themes have been reinvigorated by the newcomers and its setup. For instance, the discussion on gender politics was sparse in prior films given their relative distance; in fact, seldom were entire moments dedicated to the female gender. However, in Barbershop: A Fresh Cut it becomes a regular occurrence, given their now-close proximity, which produces some hilarious observations; over the course of the film, this also evolves into a dialogue as members of each gender learn something about the other. Through their witticisms and casual put-downs, such observations become increasingly complex as they gain such better understandings.
However, the major pitfalls of this film are moments all but mimic prior films. For example, the second film in the franchise has a local politician arrive at the barbershop for a haircut for a publicity stunt. But in true comedy style, it goes awry as the nervous barber cannot make maintain a steady-hand – this practically happens again in this film. The filmmaker repurpose entire jokes from the past into the present, which almost cheapens the experience.
To make matters worse the multitude of dramatic plotlines are shamelessly bland and predictable, thereby making them only serviceable to the narrative. The gang-related violence bears minimal dramatic weight; the victims and the survivors are established by the end of act one, thereby rendering any tension mute.
Nonetheless, the film is aware of the plot’s simplicity. Further still, the film has a sincerity to its characters. It understands the plot threads are there to simply tie the film together, and while it almost veers itself towards eye-rolling clichés, it is the earnestness that makes such moments forgivable.
Above all, this film is hilarious; the quick fire insults, the witticisms, and the off-beat dry gags will bring an abundance of belly laughs, and a nice warm feeling. This latter feeling derives from a script that understands the dynamics of comedy. In other words, the characters are established to allow the quips, the slapstick, and the mishaps to occur in a natural manner. There is nothing mean spirited about this film.
Barbershop: A Fresh Cut is self-aware without feeling smug, and it makes political observations without the necessity to preach. Bottom line: this film is intelligent, hilarious, and is a cut above the rest. It is a rare example of the third film being the best film.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★