There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Unlike most sequels, Barbershop 2: Back in Business feels more true to the intentions of the franchise than its predecessor. Whereas the first Barbershop film merely simulated the easy rapport to be found in a South Side hair joint, Business offers the real deal: a cast of characters who feel like old friends. Since the first film, Calvin’s Barbershop has seemingly been under plexiglass: Isaac (Troy Garity) and Ricky (Michael Ealy) are still at each other’s throats, Terri (Eve) is still pissed off, and Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer) is still riling up the crowd. (“The D.C. sniper,” he says, is the “Jackie Robinson of crime.”) The plot, too, is familiar. In the original, Calvin (Ice Cube) sells out to a preening loan shark before realizing his folly; in the sequel, he squares off against a villainous developer and politician, Alderman Brown (Robert Wisdom). This time, the bigger enemy is gentrification: Though Calvin supports change in the neighborhood, he can’t countenance his shop’s being replaced by a swanky black-hair-care franchise called Nappy Cutz. Director Kevin Rodney Sullivan and writer Don D. Scott use mostly black-and-white flashback sequences to hammer home the shop’s connection with the neighborhood: Calvin’s dad sheltered Eddie when he was on the run for stealing meat on the Fourth of July; Eddie stood his ground to protect the business as looters tore through Chicago during the 1968 riots. It’s no surprise, then, when Calvin gets his Mr. Smith–goes–to–the–city–council– meeting moment, preaching that the neighborhood must not lose its soul—and so forth. The funny thing is, amid all that righteous railing against the Blockbuster-ing and Nappy Cutz–ing of our inner cities, Barbershop has created a nice little brand name for itself. Business even includes a “special appearance” by Queen Latifah as the sassy owner of an adjacent beauty shop—a place that’s scheduled to spin off into its own movie later this year. But perhaps Cube & Co. should stop the expansion there: If the franchise keeps growing, soon enough charming familiarity will turn into boring, commodified sameness. —Josh Levin