MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Photo By Warner Bros. Pictures
Directed by Malcolm D. Lee. Starring Ice Cube, Common.
It’s been fourteen years since we were introduced to Calvin Palmer’s (Ice Cube) barbershop on Chicago’s South Side in 2002’s Barbershop. It was a gathering place where people from the neighborhood could mingle and joke with one another while getting into friendly arguments over the events of the day. You could count on Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer), the oldest barber on staff, to embrace ideas guaranteed to stir things up (“O. J. did it!”).
In the first film Calvin was struggling to establish his business and create opportunities for his young family. His barbershop now shares its large space with a beauty shop (a cost-cutting move that helps both businesses stay on the block) and the male/female jousting between staff and customers includes conversations about what men and women want from relationships.
There are developments on the block to be worried about. Gang warfare is on the rise and Calvin’s teenage son Jalen (Michael Rainey) is receiving protection from one of the gang leaders who is encouraging him to consider joining their group. Jimmy (Sean Patrick Thomas), a former employee of the barbershop, is now a local politician who is promoting a plan to enclose the block from the surrounding area in a kind of inner-city gated community. Calvin finds this idea reprehensible, for it would cut their barbershop loose from the neighborhood as well as the families that would live outside the project’s boundaries.
While gang violence in this film is presented seriously – and there is a tragic shooting that takes a young life – Barbershop: The Next Cut has more on its mind that a moral message. The movie simply wants to entertain, and its talented cast of comic actors and hip-hop stars (including Eve and Nicki Minaj) keep everything moving along with plenty of laughs, flirtations and quick-witted banter.
Watching this good-natured, good-hearted film delivers some of the same pleasures that you would receive from a clever TV sitcom (One of the screenwriters for the movie is Kenya Barris, the creator of Black-ish). The barbershop’s attempts to bring about a temporary cease-fire are idealistic and hard to imagine, but it’s nice to see a movie offer a positive worldview instead of bleak fatalism.
The film is not without a few speed bumps. The church and religious faith are noticeably underserved in this values-driven story (faith was more central in Spike Lee’s more incendiary South Side comedy Chi-Raq). And there is enough sexual talk and lewd suggestion in this film to make its PG-13 rating somewhat suspect. That’s a shame, because there are some touching scenes between Calvin and his son that could open up meaningful conversation between parents and children.
Jesus reminds us in the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37) that a true neighbor is someone who comes to your help in time of need. Barbershop: The Next Cut is bold enough to suggest the same thing
Three halos: The values of community and family are emphasized in this entertaining ensemble comedy.
Two pitchforks: Much casual swearing; suggestive sex talk; violence and an off-screen death.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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