‘Barbershop’ brings the comedy, drama

by Richard Roeper

You don’t expect a comedy to give you the chills, but the opening scene in “Barbershop: The Next Cut” did exactly that to me.

It’s been a decade and a half since we’ve seen Ice Cube’s Calvin Palmer, proprietor of the South Side barbershop where there’s as much conversation as cutting on any given day.

The neighborhood has fallen on hard times. Crime is up. Gunshots and sirens are the soundtrack of the day. We see real-life news footage of recent tragedies and protests that have put Chicago in the national spotlight.

Says Calvin to his beloved hometown:

“Chicago, we need to talk.”

Maybe it’s because I’m from the south suburbs and I’ve lived in the city for 25 years but when Calvin talked about how the violence has him rethinking his love affair with the city, it hit home, hard.

Not only is “Barbershop: The Next Cut” one of the funniest movies in recent years, it’s a poignant and timely drama about the dilemma facing many parents in certain Chicago neighborhoods where crime is a fact of life: As much as you want to live where your family has lived for generations, as much as you don’t want to be pushed out of your home, is it better for your children if you move the family elsewhere?

Calvin and his wife, Jennifer (Jazsmin Lewis), have done everything they can to make sure their son, Jalen (Michael Rainey Jr.), concentrates on his studies and his basketball game while avoiding the gang influences lurking around every corner and even in the high school hallways. But when a model student from the neighborhood gets caught in the crossfire of another senseless exchange of gunfire, Calvin contemplates selling the barbershop and moving his family and the business to the North Side.

Out of economic necessity, Calvin’s barbershop is now sharing space with the beauty shop run by Angie (Regina Hall), so the stage is set every morning for gender (and generational) verbal warfare.

At times “The Next Cut” is almost too ambitious in its attempt to cover myriad bases. In addition to the plot lines about Calvin’s family, violence in Chicago, Eddie’s claim he once cut the hair of a young Barack Obama and Anthony Anderson’s J.D. operating a food truck, there’s a romantic triangle of sorts involving Rashad (Common) and his wife, Terri (Eve), and Draya, who has designs on Rashad. It’s the least interesting and least effective story thread in the film.

Just about everything else clicks, thanks in no small part to the wonderful performances from the deep cast.

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