The original "Barbershop," a sleeper hit in 2002, was an above-average
urban comedy whose sitcom-style plot was boosted by smart writing
and likable characters. In bringing back most of the principal cast,
" Barbershop 2: Back in Business" attempts to recapture that same
magic and falls flat on its face in the process. What was once fresh
is now tedious this time around, with new director Kevin Rodney Sullivan
content in creating just a lazy, aimless rehash with only one reason for existing: money.
Set a year and a half after its predecessor, Calvin (Ice Cube) is
still the happy owner of his late father's barbershop, located on
the south side of Chicago. He is once again joined by his colorful
employees, including the tell-it-like-it-is Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer),
who sees no subject or moment in history sacred; Terri (Eve), whose
loud personality has recently mellowed thanks to anger management
classes; Dinka (Leonard Earl Howze), who not-so-secretly pines for
Terri; Ricky (Michael Ealy), a smooth-talking ladies' man who does
secretly hold feelings for Terri; and Isaac (Troy Garity), the token
white barber. Meanwhile, the educated Jimmy (Sean Patrick Thomas),
a former employee, is now working for a smarmy politician (Robert Wisdom).
The lame excuse for a plot goes like this: when a greedy entrepreneur
(Harry Lennix) begins the building of a splashy, more mainstream barbershop,
"Nappy Cuts," across the street, Calvin suddenly fears that his own
business' days in the spotlight are numbered. With the advice of his
friends and employees, he sets out to try and retain his clients and,
if possible, stop the materialistic construction of name-brand stores
and multiplexes taking over the neighborhood.
The first "Barbershop" flowed smoothly and naturally, taking place
over a 24-hour period that helped to raise the stakes of Calvin's
conflict. "Barbershop 2: Back in Business" is set over a much longer
period, and moves lugubriously from one insipid subplot to the next.
Every time things seem to be getting solved, more uninspired problems
arise. Furthing padding out the painful 110-m inute running time are
pointless flashbacks for Eddie, an excuse to give Cedric the Entertainer
(2003's "Intolerable Cruelty") more to do, and several scenes with
Gina (Queen Latifah), the sassy worker at the beauty parlor next door
who once had a relationship with Calvin. Queen Latifah (2003's "Bringing
Down the House") is a bright presence, her final wordless scene with
Calvin being the movie's most honest moment, but her part is completely
extraneous, a shameless setup for her upcoming spin-off film, "Beauty Shop."
The screenplay by Don D. Scott is the biggest offender to this project.
The outspoken nature of the conversations throughout the original
stood out because they were brutally honest, controversial, and actually
quite funny. The opinionated Eddie continues his rants here on topics
ranging from the D.C. sniper to Bill Clint on to Michael Jackson,
but they lack the same kind of snap and spontaneity. In truth, there
is very little at all that garners laughs, and the characters simply
go through the motions of the plot.
When all is said and done, "Barbershop 2: Back in Business" is successful
only in sullying the memory of a superior movie that didn't warrant
a sequel, particularly one so glaringly lacking in imagination and
purpose. All involved would have been wise to quit while they were ahead.
Copyright © 2004 Dustin Putman