Movie Review-Barbershop: The Next Cut

When Jada Pinkett-Smith’s call for an Oscar boycott inspired the‪#‎OscarsSowhite campaign, one of the complaints was the lack of positive roles for African-American actors in Hollywood. Proponents pointed out how Halle Berry won an Oscar only for the role she played in Monster’s Ball, Denzel Washington for Training Day and Octavia Spencer for The Help. They claim Hollywood reserves roles for African American actors that only promote the stereotypes of angry black woman, drug dealing pimps and massa-loving house Negro.

Whilst there is some truth in that assertion, what was not highlighted is the fact that far more than White Hollywood movies, black movies affirm those stereotypes and advance that narrative. Those are the characters repeatedly portrayed in black movies. From Tyler Perry’s Madea coon fest franchise to the recently released 3rd installment in the Barbershop franchise.

In recent years, I’ve observed that Hollywood, ostensibly in response to this criticism, has offered a mea culpa that I find more insulting; the tokenist role for the African American actor in blockbuster movies that screams “see? We are not racist. There’s a black guy playing a significant even if miniscule role in this blockbuster”. You see it in Dayo Okeniyi’s character in Terminator: Genisys, Jamie Foxx’s in White House Down and Danny Glover’s in 2012 to mention a few.

Hollywood has, at least, tried to address the problem. But black movies in that peculiarly entitled attitude of African Americans have continued to unapologetically advance the narrative and stereotypes. And any time Hollywood pulls a Don Imus, actors like Jada Pinkett-Smith pull an Al Sharpton and demand that heads roll in atonement.

In The Next Cut, Calvin’s barbershop now has a female section run by his partner played by Regina Hall. And true to type; where there are African American men and women in a barbershop, the conversation is eventually going to be about hair, weaves, side chicks, gang bangers, ballers and shot callers and teenagers rebelling against their parents for always getting up in their business and eventually a group dance to a soulful number to cool down frayed nerves.

This patented formula is pretty much allowed to run its shtick in The Next Cut. Calvin contemplates relocating his barbershop because of the gang violence and his concerns about raising his son in the neighbourhood. His son is giving in to peer pressure to join a gang. Calvin and his crew decide to take matters into their own hands again to save their neighbourhood by convincing a couple of warring local shot callers to call a 48 hour truce to address the issue of gang-related violence plaguing the neighbourhood. A subplot sees Common’s Rashad (married to Eve’s Terri) trying to fend off advances from Nicki Minaj’s Draya.

As one would expect, Ice Cube by now has to put in little or no effort to play Calvin down to a T. He embodies the character and gives a believable performance of a father torn between protecting his immediate family and fulfilling his responsibilities to his business partner and workers.

Regina Hall has always been one of my favourite actresses but there wasn’t enough screen time for her to leave any memorable impression. Eve had as much screen time as is needed to qualify as an obligatory cameo. Nicki Minaj and her entourage were obviously featured to tempt Common’s Rashad and the male audience.

I imagine Cedric the entertainer’s Eddie is supposed to be the avuncular voice of wisdom in the Barbershop franchise but he’s always ended up ceding that role to Ice Cube’s Calvin whilst majorly coming across as a purely for cheap laughs distraction.

The one character that stood out for me in The Next Cut is J. B. Smoove’s One Stop, a smooth-talking and fly-dressing jack of all trade who literally lived up to his moniker. He was a bundle of laughs and left you wanting more every time he came on screen.

Barbershop: The Next Cut wasn’t spectacular neither was it a disappointment. Like your regular haircut, it was just safe and tidy enough to get you through the week and until the next haircut.

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