BarbershopTheNextCutcoverGrade: C+/B-
Entire family: No
2016, 111 min., Color
Warner Bros.
Rated PG-13 for sexual material and language
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Featured audio: DTS-HDMA 5.1
Bonus features: C-
Includes: Blu-ray, Digital HD
Amazon link

I missed seeing Barbershop (2002), Barbershop 2: Back in Business (2004), and the spin-off, Beauty Shop (2005). But because it’s been more than 10 years since the last one, I wasn’t at a disadvantage. Barbershop: The Next Cut stands on its own, and though it could stand a fresher plot, the cast (old, plus new) is still entertaining.

My wife and I watched with our two teens, and it surprised us how often we found ourselves laughing out loud at the banter between characters that were sometimes a few hairs short of being total caricatures.

But the plot is both simple and formulaic: Calvin (Ice Cube) still owns a barbershop on Chicago’s south side, where old-timer Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer) does more talking than trimming and Raja (Utkarsh Ambudkar) is the only non-black. To keep the business thriving, Calvin has partnered with Angie (Regina Hall), who runs a beauty shop out of one half of the space. But making money and making jokes take a backseat to their big concern. Every day in the neighborhood there’s a shooting, and the violence between rival gangs has gotten way out of hand—so bad, in fact, that Calvin and the rest of the Barbershop “cutters” are facing the same crisis as the rest of South Side Chicago: they can’t even walk the streets without thinking their lives are in danger. Trigger-happy gang members are taking innocent lives and rapidly making that part of the city uninhabitable.

BarbershopTheNextCutscreenIt’s gotten so bad that Calvin and his wife, Jennifer (Jazsmin Lewis) are considering abandoning the shop his father once owned because they are worried their teenage son, Jalen (Michael Rainey Jr.), might not live to see 21 if they remain. Calvin is even looking at properties on Chicago’s safer north side—though he’s keeping that a secret from his cutters, stylists, and regular customers. They include a caterer (Anthony Anderson) who tries to profit any chance he gets; a fast-talking entrepreneur named One-Stop (J.B. Smoove); a goofy nerd (Lamorne Morris); and a hunky cutter (Common) that draws the wrath of his wife-stylist, who also happens to be Calvin’s sister Terri (Eve), when he appears to flirt with stylist Draya (Nicki Minaj), whose rear-end is the “butt” of many jokes. No subject seems off-limits for comedy, including Black Lives Matter and Michelle Obama. And of course there are Bill Cosby and Justin Bieber jokes.

Director Malcolm D. Lee seems comfortable blending comedy and serious issues, though the latter is rolled up in a main plot that feels too easily resolved. Barbershop as social center? Totally believable. Barbershop as town hall meeting site? Also believable. Brokering a ceasefire between the rival gangs, with a free haircut day to draw attention to it? Considerably less believable, but not as hard to swallow as a facile ending. Still, the message is a good one, and the jokes wrap the package nicely.

But parents be warned. Some PG-13 movies come closer to PG and are acceptable for younger-than-teen viewers as well. Barbershop: The Next Cut will have you raising your eyebrows at a few risque scenes that seem closer to an R-rating, as when a man’s wife presents her fully clothed bottom, wiggles it around, and says something like, “Go ahead, put it up there.” Though there are no nude or sex scenes, there are a number of sexual references like that (including talk of big butts and masturbation) which could make for uncomfortable viewing for some families.

Lanaguage: Mild swearwords throughout, along with at least one F-bomb and liberal use of the “N” word.
Sex: Nothing shown, and no nudity, but multiple instances of sex talk
Violence: Talk of a young boy being killed, along with a few gunshots and in-your-face pushing, but no blood
Adult situations: Mostly sex talk and gang confrontations
Takeaway: Rotten Tomatoes critics gave Barbershop: The Next Cut the highest rating of the four franchise films, with the original Barbershop coming in second; our family was split along gender lines, with the males giving it a B- and the females a C+