leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh
Gentrification threatens the South-Side Chicago barbershop Calvin Palmer (Ice Cube) inherited and has learned to love in this sequel to 2002's BARBERSHOP. The staff at Calvin's shop has stayed pretty much the same: Motormouthed Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer) is still leaving no sacred cow unskewered; tough-as-nails Terri Jones (rapper Eve) is trying to soften her image; West African dreamer Dinka (Leonard Earl Howze) still pines for Terri; wanna-be-black white boy Isaac (Troy Garity) has become the shop's star attraction; and ex-con Ricky Nash (Michael Ealy) is sticking to the straight and narrow. But the neighborhood is changing. A large land development company is buying up property, displacing old-time businesses and bringing in profitable franchises. Oily Alderman Lelo Brown (Robert Wisdom) is in cahoots with opportunist Quentin Leroux (Harry Lennix), who's in on the landgrab; he's bought the property directly across the street from Calvin's barbershop and is opening Nappy Cutz, a high-tech hair-cutting experience supported by a flashy Web site and attention-getting in-store perks. But since Calvin has realized how much he loves the business his father built into a neighborhood institution, he's not going down without a fight. Calvin has an ally in Brown's camp smug college-boy Jimmy James (Sean Patrick Thomas), who used to cut at Calvin's, works in the alderman's office and friends all over the neighborhood. They include outspoken ex-girlfriend Gina (Queen Latifah), who manages the ladies' hair salon up the block; her gaggle of beauty-shop home girls work that sass until it hurts. Calvin's grassroots campaign to hold back the carpetbaggers at the gate gives the film structure, and flashbacks reveal snippets of local history, including the roots of Eddie's one-man reign of verbal terror and the way the barbershop came to be the only business on the block to survive the riots that erupted after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. But in the end, the movie is a showcase for the loose, occasionally very funny, give-and-take between instantly recognizable characters, which is not to say stereotypes. Ice Cube is so genial and laid back it's hard to believe he's the same snarling thug who ass-kicks his way through action pictures, let alone the seethingly angry rapper who emerged from NWA in the early 1990s. And he's a born straight man to boot, generous and able to get every ounce of comic value out of a strategically timed eye roll with no visible effort.