The eagerly anticipated sequel “Barbershop 2” sidesteps many of the pitfalls that frequently plague sequels. Overly dramatic plot developments, complication of character motivation, and lack of innovation all too often cause follow-up films to fall short of their predecessors. Sequels tend to rely on familiarity with the original movie to excuse sloppy storytelling, and they often toss in stock supporting characters to inject new life into a stagnant world. See “Star Wars” Episode 1, 2 (and most likely 3) for examples.
Fortunately, Kevin Rodney Sullivan’s new film doesn’t take itself seriously enough to fail. The movie relies on solid, dimensional characters who are all holdovers from the original, an extended cameo from Queen Latifah as Gina and a simple and understandable plot to propel this wholly enjoyable movie forward. Calvin (Ice Cube), proprietor of the barbershop that his father started forty years ago, comes under attack from a hairstyling franchise called Nappy Cutz. The store is part of a larger, insidious “land improvement” venture sponsored by Mr. Brown (Robert Wisdom), the alderman of the Chicago township where the movie takes place. The lower class community of Mom & Pop stores must band together to beat out the corporate invaders, and once united with Calvin at the helm, they prove that people, not money, make a neighborhood valuable.
The conflict of Big Business versus The People is neither original nor particularly engaging in this rendition, but it provides a sufficient opportunity for the interesting character personalities to shine. Most notable among these is Eddie, played by Cedric the Entertainer. Eddie is a friend of Calvin’s deceased father who basically lives at the barbershop and maintains the atmosphere of conviviality. Cedric lives up to his surname and, as advertised, delivers line after hilarious line on subjects ranging from Prince to Bill Clinton. Nothing is sacred and nothing goes unsnapped when Eddie is around. He even stands up to Gina during a spat at a fundraiser barbecue, a scene which seems to be constructed solely for the purpose of watching Queen Latifah and Cedric go toe to toe and exchange one clever insult after another to the amusement of the crowd. Cedric the Entertainer is funny personified and, as secondary to the plot as his character is, he provides the backbone to the film. His on-screen persona is ideally suited to let the audience know that, no matter how the story twists and turns, this is what the movie is all about: having a good time, just like the people who come to get their hair cut at Calvin’s.