“Barbershop” makes the cut with its memorable characters

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

If there has been a movie so far this year that has proven that comedy and depth can successfully co-exist, it would be “Barbershop: The Next Cut.” I know that that sounds strange, since a majority of the movie happens within a hair salon and because the urban-Chicago setting of the movie suggests the inclusion of excessive gang violence and illiteracy. But Director Malcolm D. Lee neglected the one-sided stereotypes that have plagued other movies that revolve around urban life and instead presented the humanity that exists within the South Side residents that numerous other movies have failed to portray.

I knew that “Barbershop” would be funny within the very first scene when Isaac (Troy Garity), or the only white guy from the original movie, visits the shop and complains about how the shop has lost its soul because everyone is “old now.” It was the perfect way to open the movie by showing that the returning characters, like Calvin (Ice Cube) and Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer), may have aged in years but their spirits have not faded in the least.

In the opening scene, Eddie, the lovable older barber, joked about how he “almost got lynched twice; the first time they didn’t tie the knot right, the next time the rope was too small.” Calvin, on the other hand, established himself as the “moderator” of the shop after he caught his co-worker Rashad’s (Common) son stealing candy from the store, saying, “If you don’t hand it over, I’m gonna assume it was $50, and I’ll take that off your dad’s paycheck.”

Needless to say, my favorite aspect of the movie was the characters, which is the biggest indication of a worthy movie. Even though the movie somewhat lacked a captivating plot line, the unique array of characters within Calvin’s Barbershop, from the money-crazed entrepreneur One-Stop (J.B. Smoove) to the lone Indian barber named Raja (Utkarsh Ambudkar), grounded the movie and just made it fun to watch.

On the other hand, the greatest weakness was, simply put, one character — Draya (Nicki Minaj). It confuses me as to how a director who created characters as genuine and distinctive as Eddie and Calvin made someone as meaningless and shallow as Draya. Basically, Draya’s only purpose in the movie is to serve as the tension between Terri (Eve) and Rashad’s marriage, when Terri suspects that Draya has intimate feelings for Rashad, and to appeal to male audiences by wearing outfits that would look more appropriate in a Katy Perry music video.

At first, when Rashad accuses Draya of trying to seduce him, she defends herself by saying, “Just because I’m thick doesn’t mean I don’t have a soul,” but a few minutes later she tries to kiss him in a secluded storage backroom. This clarified that she indeed had no soul, but this didn’t change much since I could already tell based on her emotionless acting that was less expressive than a piece of cardboard.

For instance, after being informed that one of the barbershop’s loyal customers had been shot, everyone is shocked into silence (which is the normal psychological response) while Draya melodramatically flees from the room with her hands on her face. I have no idea why Lee made her do this because it just made me want to laugh at her terrible acting instead of feel dismal that one of the characters died.

Another weakness in the movie was the lack of progression with the conflict. In the movie, Calvin’s son, Jalen (Michael Rainey Jr.), is pulled into the gang life that Calvin actively tries to keep him away from and even starts a campaign within the barbershop to denounce. Even though Ice Cube displays masterful acting when Eddie loses his composure following the news of the slain barbershop customer, the overarching conflict of gang violence in the South Side seems to get resolved without much effort. Ironically, Calvin says “We’ve got to fix our problems ourselves” following his mental breakdown but the problem largely seems to fix itself.
Nevertheless, “Barbershop: The Next Cut” was one of the few movies I’ve watched this academic year whose characters seemed like real people. I think that the absence of an urgent conflict emphasized the importance of good characters in a movie, because although the plot line was forgettable, the lovable “family” of Calvin’s Barbershop grasped my attention from start to finish, even more so than most dramas I’ve ever watched.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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