Kernel Rating (out of 5):
MPAA Rating: PG-13 Length: 112 minutes
Age Appropriate For: 14+. This ‘Barbershop’ film has some stuff typical to the franchise (like cursing, lots of racial humor, use of the n-word, crude jokes, lots of talk about sex and slang for genitalia, some cleavage, some twerking, some implied sexual situations), but also brings topical social issues into the narrative, with a focus on gangs and gang violence. Various people die, a gang-initiation ceremony includes implied violence and underage drinking, and a subplot involving relationship infidelity.
The third installment in the ‘Barbershop’ franchise, ‘The Next Cut,’ brings topical social issues into the narrative with its discussions about inner-city violence. But the film starts meaningful conversations without genuinely pushing them forward.
By Roxana Hadadi
“Barbershop: The Next Cut” is, more than anything, an expression of affection for the city of Chicago. The film’s entire narrative, which tackles gang violence in the inner city, paints the city’s murder rate and social issues as largely disappointing, enraging developments that need to be addressed. But while “The Next Cut” starts timely conversations, it doesn’t finish them—it always opts for a sexually or racially themed joke instead of a truly insightful idea.
Movies don’t need to be lectures, so “The Next Cut” isn’t required to have an answer for every problem that it brings up. But a conversation about the different things the two sexes want from relationships ends in dismissively labeling women as “hoes”; a discussion of whether President Barack Obama has done enough for the black community also includes a lengthy talk about whether he has mistresses; and the musician R. Kelly, who has long been plagued by rumors about his sexual interest in young girls, is defended here.
Every good, thought-provoking issue the characters of “The Next Cut” raise in their barbershop is given a few minutes of discussion, then it’s like the script just quits and everything devolves. At the end of the movie’s two-hour runtime, you’ll remember Nicki Minaj’s cleavage, but too much else falls by the wayside.
“The Next Cut” is set in the present-day, with barbershop owner Calvin (Ice Cube, of “Ride Along 2”), his business partner Angie (Regina Hall, of “Think Like a Man Too”), and his best friend Rashad (Common, of “Selma”) working at the bustling store. But the South Side Chicago location seems to be surrounded by violence—the number of shootings is increasingly rapidly, people they know are being attacked, and gang warfare is at an all-time high. For Calvin and Rashad, who each have high-school-age sons, their stress involves concern for their boys, too—will they be approached by a gang? What will they do if that happens?
Amid all this, the city government floats the idea of blocking off the South Side, essentially trapping the barbershop inside and cutting off their business flow in the name of safety. Calvin, already secretly considering moving his family to another neighborhood, sees this move as another sign that it’s time for them to leave. But when the other barbers and stylists come up with the idea of making the barbershop a neutral safe space for 48 hours, they hope their plan will bring attention to Chicago’s problems. “We gotta take our streets back” becomes their motto, and they hope to succeed.
Trapping everyone together in the shop for 48 hours allows for those aforementioned conversations to develop, and there are seriously funny moments here. New cast members Lamorne Morris and Utkarsh Ambudkar (of “Pitch Perfect”) have good chemistry as they go around documenting everything on their cellphone cameras and keeping a running commentary of the shop’s absurdity; Cedric the Entertainer (of “Planes: Fire and Rescue”) has some good moments as the older, out-of-touch Eddie; and Common is another standout at the kind, likeable, and tempted-by-Minaj married man Rashad.
But those good performances aren’t enough to forgive “The Next Cut’s” tendency to start an important conversation and then walk away in the middle of it. There are no easy conclusions for discussions about racial, sexual, and social relations, but despite some good jokes and likeable cast members, “Barbershop” barely even tries.
Interested in a previously released film? Read our reviews of films already showing in your local theater.