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Dustin Putman

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Barbershop 2: Back In Business (2004)
1 Stars

Directed by Kevin Rodney Sullivan
Cast: Ice Cube, Cedric the Entertainer, Eve, Michael Ealy, Troy Garity, Sean Patrick Thomas, Leonard Earl Howze, Queen Latifah, Kenan Thompson, Robert Wisdom, Harry Lennix, Jazsmin Lewis, David Newman, Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon
2004 – 110 minutes
Rated: Rated PG-13 (for language, sexual material, and brief drug references).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, February 7, 2004.

The original "Barbershop," a sleeper hit in 2002, was an above-average urban comedy whose sitcom-style plot was boosted by smart writing and likable characters. In bringing back most of the principal cast, "Barbershop 2: Back in Business" attempts to recapture that same magic and falls flat on its face in the process. What was once fresh is now tedious this time around, with new director Kevin Rodney Sullivan content in creating just a lazy, aimless rehash with only one reason for existing: money.

Set a year and a half after its predecessor, Calvin (Ice Cube) is still the happy owner of his late father's barbershop, located on the south side of Chicago. He is once again joined by his colorful employees, including the tell-it-like-it-is Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer), who sees no subject or moment in history sacred; Terri (Eve), whose loud personality has recently mellowed thanks to anger management classes; Dinka (Leonard Earl Howze), who not-so-secretly pines for Terri; Ricky (Michael Ealy), a smooth-talking ladies' man who does secretly hold feelings for Terri; and Isaac (Troy Garity), the token white barber. Meanwhile, the educated Jimmy (Sean Patrick Thomas), a former employee, is now working for a smarmy politician (Robert Wisdom).

The lame excuse for a plot goes like this: when a greedy entrepreneur (Harry Lennix) begins the building of a splashy, more mainstream barbershop, "Nappy Cuts," across the street, Calvin suddenly fears that his own business' days in the spotlight are numbered. With the advice of his friends and employees, he sets out to try and retain his clients and, if possible, stop the materialistic construction of name-brand stores and multiplexes taking over the neighborhood.

The first "Barbershop" flowed smoothly and naturally, taking place over a 24-hour period that helped to raise the stakes of Calvin's conflict. "Barbershop 2: Back in Business" is set over a much longer period, and moves lugubriously from one insipid subplot to the next. Every time things seem to be getting solved, more uninspired problems arise. Furthing padding out the painful 110-minute running time are pointless flashbacks for Eddie, an excuse to give Cedric the Entertainer (2003's "Intolerable Cruelty") more to do, and several scenes with Gina (Queen Latifah), the sassy worker at the beauty parlor next door who once had a relationship with Calvin. Queen Latifah (2003's "Bringing Down the House") is a bright presence, her final wordless scene with Calvin being the movie's most honest moment, but her part is completely extraneous, a shameless setup for her upcoming spin-off film, "Beauty Shop."

The screenplay by Don D. Scott is the biggest offender to this project. The outspoken nature of the conversations throughout the original stood out because they were brutally honest, controversial, and actually quite funny. The opinionated Eddie continues his rants here on topics ranging from the D.C. sniper to Bill Clinton to Michael Jackson, but they lack the same kind of snap and spontaneity. In truth, there is very little at all that garners laughs, and the characters simply go through the motions of the plot.

When all is said and done, "Barbershop 2: Back in Business" is successful only in sullying the memory of a superior movie that didn't warrant a sequel, particularly one so glaringly lacking in imagination and purpose. All involved would have been wise to quit while they were ahead.
© 2004 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman