It's hard to believe that "Barbershop: The Next Cut" is the third installment of a franchise that is just two years shy of the 15 year mark. Considering the who's who of talent that has come through this franchise that has spawned four movies to date - including this most recent release set for April 15, as well as the female spin off "Beauty Shop" in 2005 - it wouldn't be off the mark to suggest that even if this current movie were the narrative equivalent of wet cardboard, people would likely turn out to see it in healthy numbers. However, in this case, due to the on point comedic and emotional execution by director Malcolm Lee ( "The Best Man", "The Best Man Holiday"), an excellent nuts to bolts story structure built with room for inspired comedic improv courtesy of writers Kenya Barris and Tracy Oliver, as well as politically relevant, up to the minute reality based subject matter, courtesy of producers Robert Teitel, George L. Tillman Jr., Becky Cross Trujillo and Ice Cube, moviegoers will be on point themselves in heading down to the theater to pay the cost of admission.
Not a movie to let it's highly successful ten year plus history keep it out of touch with what is happening on the ground today versus September, 2002 when the original movie debuted, "Barbershop: The Next Cut" manages to be hilariously entertaining while still following the characters that we have come to know and love (as well as some welcome newcomers) while not forgetting this strange new political world that we all currently inhabit - both in Chicago, Illinois as well as nationally and globally. It's a scary world out there currently for a myriad of reasons that were unimaginable just five years ago. This movie manages to embrace this new reality while reveling in the human ability to laugh harder than ever to get through it and conquer it... or lose a few innocents along the way trying.
While Barbershop starts out with a telling enumeration of everything that has been exemplary in Chicago (Kanye West, Oprah Winfrey, President Obama) juxtaposed with the recent steep spike in violence in Chicago as compared to the rest of the country, to it's credit, this movie never ever forgets that it is a comedy. Cedric The Entertainer leads the charge as the comedic Pied Piper showing the way to an outsized crop of A list comedic talent in comedians J.B.Smoove, Anthony Anderson and Deon Cole and newer "Barbershop" comedians LaMorne Morris and Utkarsh Ambudkar. "Barbershop" also stays true to it's who's who of actor/hip hop star power with Common, Eve and Nicki Minaj doing some very relatable and funny relationship based B-story work with Tyga giving a pitch perfect turn as a neighborhood element who gives Calvin (Ice Cube) some pause when it comes to his son Jalen (Michael Rainey, Jr.).
Ice Cube, as both a producer on the film, as well as it's lead actor gives just the right mix of funny and poignant as a man who loves his community, but necessarily must love his son more. Clearly from what Ice Cube did creatively with "Straight Outta Compton" and everything else that Cube has touched both cinematically and musically in a leadership role, this is a producer who has great talent when it comes to entertainment and what works well and speaks well to a mass audience.
If anything negative can be said about this film, it is simply the usual curse of a great ensemble cast feature done well - some characters simply aren't allowed as much screen time as we might like in order not to tip the whole apple cart. Indeed, it might have been nice to see a bit more of Anthony Anderson and Regina Hall doing the comedic antics that they do best, but likely this would have disturbed what is currently a very good final mix. Yet, given the considerable entertainment value of "Barbershop: The Next Cut," maybe those lost stories will make for yet another great followup film - provided that the usual suspects that made this one work so well can see getting the band back together once again yet another timely sequel.
"Barbershop: The Next Cut" opens in theaters nationwide on April 15, 2016.