It’s really amazing to think that it’s been 12 years since the last Barbershop movie. And to be honest, I don’t remember much about the last one. It was good for a few laughs and that was it. I know a lot of people are moaning and groaning that they can’t believe another one is out, and it’s probably going to be bad but…Malcolm Lee is directing this one. Not taking anything from Kevin Sullivan’s effort from the second one, but Lee actually made this one worth remembering.
What stands out to me is this movie on some meta level, we watch Ice Cube come full circle from the role he played over 20 years ago in Boyz n the Hood to now. It’s also meta how he and Common had beef back in the day when they were both still rapping and how some of their little jabs made it into this movie.
Many times when a movie hits the 3rd film the franchise is going down, but I think it’s safe to say that in this film, it’s not the franchise going down, but the neighborhood…and that is the crux of this movie. The plot may be one that we have seen many times; however, Lee brings this one close to home. Calvin and company are still working this shop, which is now a unisex shop that he runs with Angie (Regina Hall). The shop is just hanging on in south side Chicago rife with gang violence, which worries Calvin. Calvin is worried because he now has a son Jalen (Michael Raney, Jr.) he wants to protect from the gangs.
It’s a familiar trope that many of us can identify since a lot of what is happening in Chicago and other major cities continuously makes the news. I am even witnessing it in my hometown of Baltimore, as the shop I used to go to is just barely hanging on.
With Lee’s touch, we see all the typical goings on in the barbershop and the community. Themes such as gentrification, families wanting better for their kids, and sexual relations (and identity) are deftly presented. We are reminded about the violence that has taken the lives of Trayvon Martin, Freddy Gray, and so many others. And yes, the movie takes pot shots at Bill Cosby, the POTUS, and “post-racial” America.
Even among the cast itself, there seems to be a lot of moving parts. Whether it’s Calvin trying to decide whether or not to leave the neighborhood, or Rashad (Common) and Terri (Eve) dealing with trust issues especially as Draya (Nicki Minaj) testing their marriage, Lee manages to give the supporting cast a chance to shine. The new cast members are very nuanced in the messages, because in my opinion, even as one who rarely goes to the barber (if you see my hair you would know why) everyone in the shop is very different but somehow manages to co-exist. Raja’s (Utkarsh Ambudkar) near right-wing points are cogent and spark debate, One-Stop (JB Smoove) even in all of his con-artistry knows his friends best, and then you have Bree (Margot Bingham) who is a good counter for some of the sociology discourse and her near opposite Jerrod (Lamorne Morris) who just doesn’t quite fit in; he is almost the corny guy who although he has bad timing, he is good for comedic effect and the rest of the crew lets him hang around. Who could forget Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer) who, while still playful and misogynistic at times, has mellowed somewhat. Last but not least, you have the customer that won’t go home (if he has a home) Dante (Deon Cole).
The story, while highly predictable, hits a lot of high notes that may strike home with the target audience. Many will find themselves laughing quite a bit because although we have seen a lot of the comedy before, it still feels fresh. Deeper than that, there is still the message that parents can’t give up on kids. Even adults in Black America have to step up to say that enough is enough, because the violence that we see is getting out of hand. The endgame of trying to call a gang truce may be a bit hokey, but at least ideas are being presented. The film doesn’t get heavy-handed with a lot of the problems that we face, but it does show themes we need to see more of in a positive light even during rough times. Fathers being fathers to their sons, owning businesses and making tough decisions, even when wrong to protect their families. You don’t get to see that portrayed a lot in Black cinema so finally for once I was glad to see that here.
4 Clipper Guards out of 5
Barbershop 3 hits limited theaters March 14th 2016 and releases in full on March 15th.