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Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Barbershop 2

Posted By on Wed, Feb 11, 2004 at 12:00 AM

In the two years since the original Barbershop comedy, there’s been plenty to talk about.

Media headlines, world events and politics — which provide fodder for discussion and debate in countless urban-grooming establishments — also served to widen the field of jokes and social commentary in the slice-of-life sequel, Barbershop 2: Back in Business.

The original Barbershop was so novel a portrait of the titular black urban neighborhood institution that it seemed unlikely the filmmakers could re-create the magic a second time. Unfortunately, the Barbershop sequel is funny, but not as funny as the first. Barbershop 2 attempts to be a drama as opposed to pure comedy. The film’s common theme is the idea of the ever-present need for community loyalty, as the characters reiterate a theme that neighborhoods should support local entrepreneurs, regardless of race. But a combination of balance between characters and subplots is what makes Barbershop 2 worthwhile

Some folks had held their breath in anticipation of what the follow-up film might have to offer. For, after Barbershop’s irreverent mentions of history-book heroes, including Rosa Parks and Jesse Jackson, it became clear that behind the doors of many a storefront where men get shaved and trimmed, nothing is sacred. This time around, whether in response to the complaints of civil rights leaders or simply because the sequel’s screenwriters chose new material, it seems that, to some degree, the PC-meter was turned on, although not monitored too rigorously.

When Cedric the Entertainer’s veteran barber character Eddie refers to the Washington, D.C., sniper serial killer as “the Jackie Robinson of crime,” it’s obvious that what follows will be far from tame.

Having saved the family business in Barbershop, Calvin Palmer (Ice Cube) is enjoying his work and family life in Barbershop 2. His loyal grooming staff, including Eddie, Terry (Eve), Isaac (Troy Garity) and Ricky (Michael Ealy), remains supportive. As with the original, most of the film centers on the humorous interaction between the barbers and their clientele. Things become shaky when a new competitor moves in across the street from Calvin’s spot, and attempts to buy out most of the small, independent shops on the block.

Meanwhile, Terry is struggling to make better choices in men; Eddie is reflecting on his life and lost love; and ex-barber Jimmy (Sean Patrick Thomas) is getting his feet wet in the grimy world of politics.

Yet the script falters when it tries too hard to tie dialogue to real-world developments, and the film makes poor use of the so-called “special appearance” by actress Queen Latifah. Still, weaknesses are barely noticeable between the scene-stealing comedy of Cedric the Entertainer and strong supporting performances by Thomas, Harry J. Lennix as Calvin’s competitor and DeRay Davis as a humorous hustler.

The sequel further demonstrates why a trip to the barber’s chair can be a cultural experience.

E-mail Eddie B. Allen Jr. at letters@metrotimes.com.

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