Barbershop 2: Back in Business (review)

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It’s disappointing but hardly a shock to find that this sequel, probably only the first of many, feels rushed and frantic — it’s been a mere 17 months, after all, since the charming sleeper original hit the screens. Screenwriter Don D. Scott doesn’t come with an impressive resume — though he cowrote the first film, he also had a hand in the awful Love Don’t Cost a Thing and the abysmal My Baby’s Daddy — and all he can do is fumble around with what had been a winning cast of characters, reducing their living, breathing relationships to a series of exchanges of cheap insults. The whole crew of Calvin’s Barber Shop, on Chicago’s South Side, is back — Ice Cube’s (Ghosts of Mars) Calvin, Cedric the Entertainer’s (Intolerable Cruelty) fast-talking old-timer Eddie, Eve’s (XXX) trash-talking Terri, Michael Ealy’s (2 Fast 2 Furious) tough guy Ricky, Leonard Earl Howze’s (Antwone Fisher) immigrant Dinka, and Troy Garity’s (Soldier’s Girl) vanilla brother Isaac. But now, the interaction among them that had been real and truthful is nothing more than sitcomishly shrill, and beyond their little family, the film loses all focus, bouncing around between a rant against the WalMartization of America — the chain Nappy Cutz is about to open a branch right across the street, threatening to shut Calvin’s down — and detours into Eddie’s history, from a romantic relationship from three decades back that is so briefly sketched that we have no idea if he’s spent the last 30 years with her or missing her; the film seems to suggest both. Or it may be that it’s simply impossible to understand half of Cedric’s dialogue, so thick does he slather on the caricature this time out. The movie’s biggest sin may be, however, the criminal underusage of Queen Latifah (Chicago), whose Gina runs the salon next door to Calvin’s and barely gets to show her sass. She’s got so little to do that it’s clear the only reason she’s here is as a tease for the upcoming spinoff Beauty Shop.

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