BARBERSHOP 2: BACK IN BUSINESS
Calvin (Ice Cube) runs the Chicago South Side barbershop, which he inherited from his father, proud of both its contribution to the community and the fact that it will ensure a stable future for his baby son. The other barbers, like loudmouth veteran Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer), Isaac (Troy Garity), the only white boy in the joint, and Terri (Eve), the only girl, appreciate that while the business mightn't be big it's somehow special. When they discover that entrepreneur Quentin Leroux (Harry Lennix) is going to open a high-tech franchise salon across the street, as part of a plan to redevelop the whole area, Calvin, his employees, and indeed the whole community are compelled to examine their priorities and make some seminal choices.
Review by Brad Green:
Barbershop 2? Cheers, episode 277, transplanted to a largely African-American neighbourhood in Chicago is more like it. Right from the opening sweep across the black and white pictures on the walls, we get the feeling that this is a barbershop where everybody knows each other's name. It's the kind of set-piece ensemble that has proven immensely successful as a sitcom formula but tends to struggle to meet the demands of a movie.
The premise is realistic enough: second generation barbershop offering oodles of neighbourhood character is threatened by corporate franchise offering massage chairs, lavish decor and Electrotrim Deluxe 2000 clippers. In the central role, Ice Cube continues his unlikely transformation from gangsta rappa to credible thespian by delivering a solid, understated performance as the proprietor who would love to sell up, if only he didn't have a set of values that were once the preserve of wholesome middle class white guys with Jimmy Stewart-drawls.
The whole cast performs creditably and it's not their fault that their characters are shaped with all the imagination of an army crew cut. Apart from Ice Cube's nice guy with a moral dilemma, there's the vain hot shot with good heart, the artless ingenue, the glamour babe, the big business baddy and the politician with an eye for which side the public opinion is parted on.
There's also a resident clown of course and Cedric The Entertainer - who looks like he's got a birds nest designed by the Antonio Gaudi of the avian world on his head and speaks as though he's got its oversized eggs rolling around in his mouth - appears to be saying something amusing at times, if only we could make out a word of it.
Courtesy of a roving hand-held camera we get multiple flies-on-the-walls perspectives of the barbershop badinage, while Ice Cube's music and other hip-hop artists blast away in the background. As a cultural sample of an Afro-American neighbourhood, it works quite well, a little like a less camp version of the barbershop vignettes in Eddie Murphy's Coming To America.
This is perfectly capable of holding the film together for say a good ten minutes, and then the weaknesses of story and characterisation begin to show. Instead of finding my sensibilities piqued by the ethical dilemma at the core of the drama, my only emotional involvement became an increasing pity for a worthy cast attempting to make something tangible out of ultra thin material. The idea might just work as a TV sitcom, but to have had any chance as a movie the screenplay badly needed an appointment with a large tint brush and the Electrotrim 2000.
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BARBERSHOP 2: BACK IN BUSINESS (M)
CAST: Ice Cube, Cedric the Entertainer, Sean Patrick Thomas, Eve, Troy Garity, Michael Ealy, Leonard Earl Howze, Queen Latifah
PRODUCER: Alex Gartner, Robert Teitel, George Tillman Jr.
DIRECTOR: Kevin Rodney Sullivan
SCRIPT: Don D. Scott (characters by Mark Brown)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Tom Priestley Jr.
EDITOR: Paul Seydor
MUSIC: Richard Gibbs
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Robb Wilson King
RUNNING TIME: 106 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Fox
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 13, 2004
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