Barbershop 2:  Back in Business

Robin Clifford 
Barbershop 2
Laura Clifford 

Two years ago we met all the clients and employees of Calvin’s Barbershop on Chicago’s South Side. From the earnest, hard working Cal (Ice Cube) to the irreverent Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer), we got to know and like all of the players as they banded together to save their beloved shop. Now, they are all back, once again, and things pick up where they left off in “Barbershop 2.”

Calvin Palmer, in the previous film, had come to understand the importance his barbershop as an integral part of the community. Calvin’s Barbershop is more than just a place to get a haircut. It is a gathering place for the locals where they can play checkers, chew the fat or, in the case of Eddie, have a forum for social commentary. (Who can forget Eddie’s tirade on Jesse Jackson and Rosa Parks in “Barbershop.”) But, there is change taking place in the ‘hood and Cal and company must face a new problem – the Nappy Cutz franchise is opening a new shop right across the street from Calvin’s business.

The new black gentrification of the South Side is embraced by the other shop owners on the block who see the Nappy Cutz incursion as a means to sell their businesses, make a fast buck and get out of town. They approach Cal, whom all respect, and ask him to join them in the property sales. With Calvin’s involvement, they know that their profits will be even grander. Calvin has a crisis of conscience as he debates the pros and cons of making a deal with the slick real estate developer responsible for the new, trendy shops that threaten to replace the “mom & pop” shops - a staple in the South Side.

“Barbershop 2” is a logical extension of the original film where Calvin learned the importance the barbershop he inherited from his late father. The shop, he found out, defines him as a businessman and as a respected member in the community. In the sequel, Cal discovers just how important his little business is to the neighborhood and the people in it. All of the crew from the original are back, with some additions, and director Kevin Rodney Sullivan, working with the script from Don D. Scott, fleshes out each character in a way that builds upon what we learned of them in the original.

Calvin is the patriarch of his shop and its crew as they go about their day-to-day lives cutting hair and cutting up. Ice Cube softens his usual gruff demeanor in the role of Cal. Lady barber Terri (Eve) is still the object of affection for African-born Dinka (Leonard Earl Howze) but, it turns out, Ricky (Michael Ealy) also has an amorous eye for the pretty cutter. Eddie still dominates the conversations in the shop and pontificates on any and all things, such as comparing the DC sniper to baseball player icon Jackie Robinson. Eddie’s dedication to Calvin and his barbershop is given good shrift as the story flashes back to July 4, 1967, when he first appeared at Calvin Sr’s while running from the cops. His story continues as such events as the death of Martin Luther King and the riots it spawned grip the South Side of Chicago. Eddie proves to be a real hero, we realize.

Troy Garity returns as Isaac, the token white barber in the shop who takes great pride in his hair cutting skills and is not loath to say so. Sean Patrick Thomas reprises his role as Jimmy, the one barber who broke free of the shop to take a high profile job with the ward’s alderman. New to the shop is Cal’s cousin, Kenard (Kenan Thomson), a recent graduate from barber school with far more confidence than his abilities warrant. Queen Latifah appears, in a small role, as Gina, the owner of the beauty shop next door. (Note: “Barbershop 2” is preceded by a preview of the spin off movie, “Beauty Shop,” starring Latifah. Otherwise, her appearance in this film is of little consequence.)

The humor evinced in the first film continues in the sequel and, while not uproariously funny, has enough laughs and humor of all sorts to keep the viewer satisfied. “Barbershop 2” shows a maturity over the original, making it a worthy sequel. I give it a B.

Now that Calvin (Ice Cube) has realized the legacy of his dad's South Side barbershop, he must fight for it again when the corrupt Quality Land Development threatens with the opening of a slick franchise, Nappy Cutz, right outside Calvin's front door in "Barbershop 2: Back in Business."

With a bit of the old (in cast and screenwriter Don D. Scott ("Barbershop," with characters also by Mark Brown)) and a dash of the new (in director Kevin Rodney Sullivan ("How Stella Got Her Groove Back") and Queen Latifah, easing into her upcoming "Beauty Shop" spinoff), the "Barbershop" sequel is glossier and more focused than its scruffy predecessor.  Familiar characters grow, particularly Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer), who is provided with a poignant yet amusing history via flashbacks.

Jimmy James (Sean Patrick Thomas) is now a shop customer, having become an aide to Alderman Brown (Robert Wisdom, "Duplex"), a politician seemingly friendly to the community who is up for reelection. He's shocked by a calmer, toned down Terri (Eve), who has learned to be content without the need for a two-timing boyfriend.  Her eye will wander towards ex-con Ricky (Michael Ealy), who has some surprises of his own up his sleeve while lovelorn Dinka (Leonard Earl Howze) finds more female interest from a cutter in Gina's (Latifah) shop next door.  Isaac (Troy Garity) now fancies himself a hot shot, brandishing his clippers the way Tom Cruise tossed a cocktail shaker.  Isaac's old newcomer status is now filled by Kenard (Kenan Thompson, "Love Don't Cost a Thing"), an enthusiastic but untried in law of Calvin's whose first mistake is made under a spotlight.  Calvin himself, having recognized the importance of his father's business to the community, becomes an activist who stands up to developer Quentin Leroux (Harry Lennix, "The Matrix: Revolutions") and his underhanded backer Brown.

Screenwriter Scott has chosen a familiar route for this second installation, but his side trips add interest.  "Barbershop 2's" connection to the past is established with opening credit montages of the evolution of Black hairstyles (including those sported by Bo Derek and Eminem) that concludes with the many looks of Michael Jackson.  Eddie's own wild mane, a little whiter at the roots this time around, is actually tamed when we witness his introduction as a 4th of July barbecue thief on the run who is harbored by Calvin Sr.  Eddie's loyalty and ties to Calvin's shop are given unexpected depth when his 'rent free' booth status is revealed.  He's also given a love interest in the form of Loretta (Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon, "Bad Company") who reappears in the 'hood after a long absence.  Eddie also goes toe-to-toe with Gina when he disciplines her snotty niece and the few glimpses into Gina's shop and her feisty character are a nice introduction to Latifah's upcoming sideline.

Cedric the Entertainer once again provides the film's best moments, riling up the house this time by observing that the D.C. sniper is 'the Jackie Robinson of crime.'  While his talk is rabble rousing, his physicality is path-of-least-resistance, right down to his vowel-underpopulated speech.  Queen Latifah is an able opponent for Eddie.  Ice Cube graciously gives all the supporting players their moment to shine while he remains the steadfast glue that binds them.

Director Sullivan opens up the action and gives a better sense of the community that houses Calvin's shop.  A visually comic moment is punched up by staging Eddie and Gina's confrontation within the confines of a wading pool.  Flashbacks seem to slide right out of the present, a nice transitional effect that gives the impression of current characters watching the past on a movie screen along with the film's audience (the effect is similar to one used by John Sayles in "Lone Star").

The people behind "Barbershop 2" are certainly back in business, but freshening the franchise with a move next door is acknowledgement of time for a change.


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