By Desson Thomson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 6, 2004
"Barbershop 2: Back in Business" isn't going to give "The Godfather: Part II" a run for its money as the best sequel ever made. Nor does it have the same comic oomph as 2002's "Barbershop." But it's a warm, often funny reunion of the sassiest, chattiest characters ever to buzz a brother's head. You'll like this one more than you'd expect.
Proprietor Calvin (Ice Cube) is back again, trying to make ends meet in his shop on Chicago's South Side. The joint, established in 1958 -- and miraculously, the only business left standing after the riots of the '60s -- is the central meeting place for just about any talking point on the minds of black Americans.
This is the place to throw down about anything: politics, men, women and the perfect butt size on a woman. Oh, and you can get your hair cut, too.
It has always been a struggle to keep the place afloat in this less-than-affluent neighborhood. But it looks like the end for sure when big business starts gentrifying the block. Most ominous, a nationwide chain called Nappy Cutz is about to open a glitzy franchise right across the street. This plush, upscale hair cuttery offers luxury while you wait, with indoor basketball hoops and vibrating chairs. There's even a tank of tropical fish. It's haircut heaven, or seems to be. Calvin and associates, including big-haired Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer), sultry Terri (Eve) and slick soul-brother wannabe Isaac (Troy Garity) suddenly look like small potatoes indeed.
The less we talk about the movie's Capraesque plot pitting small-business community values against soulless consumerism, the more trees we save. What counts are the characters. Mr. Cube has always exuded an appealing, baby-faced petulance; he does the same here. And the familiar dilemmas of the first movie flare up again: Terri still has a thing for studly Ricky (Michael Ealy) while she maintains her cold war with yuppified Jimmy James (Sean Patrick Thomas). And lovelorn West African shop assistant Dinka (an amusing Leonard Earl Howze) meets that special ready-for-African-love somebody.
But the movie's big star is clearly Eddie, whose iconoclastic rant about civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks in 2002's "Barbershop" caused such a fuss in the African American community. He goes at it again, striking an even more sensitive nerve: The D.C. sniper, he declares (treating John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo as one entity), should be considered the "Jackie Robinson of crime," since serial killers historically have been white. Hey, Eddie's only just started. He doesn't care who's hollering at him. Through extended flashbacks, we learn Eddie has a greater significance in the history of Calvin's shop than anyone realized. This arty addition to the story doesn't quite sit right. Do we really need such depth in this kind of flick? Better to return to the funnier Eddie of the present.
Even more distracting is a tacky promo for Queen Latifah's spinoff movie, "Beauty Shop." A preview of this upcoming female version of the "Barbershop" series runs just before the movie, and in "Barbershop 2" she gets a scene or two, duking verbally with Eddie. But for the most part, "Barbershop 2" stays to its own roots. To quote Calvin, the shop -- and the spirit of this movie -- is about "real people, real conversation, real barbers."
Barbershop 2: Back in Business (106 minutes, at area theaters) is rated PG-13 for obscenity, sexual situations and drug references.