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Serious subject, some serious laughs in 'Barbershop 3: The Next Cut'

How can you possibly find humor in the homicides, senseless violence and gang warfare epidemic that is tearing one of America’s great cities apart at the seams?

You can’t. But you can make it the backdrop of a return trip to the Barbershop. And as long as Cedric the Entertainer made up to be a 70-year-old man who says whatever is on his mind is one of the people working the scissors and you surround him with a talented ensemble of actors and hip-hop stars trying to make it as actors, you might actually find a reason to laugh.

“Barbershop 3: The Next Cut” is the third film in the franchise that first hit theaters in 2002. This one follows the established pattern of a dramatic story punctuated by the humor that ensues when a familiar cast of characters occupies the neighborhood clip joint on Chicago’s South Side.

Ultimately, “The Next Cut” is a redemptive movie about being loyal to your friends and your community and trying to make a difference when everyone around you is giving up. And director Malcolm D. Lee does a nice job blending stories involving more than 10 main characters into the story.

The result is a movie that is true to the spirit of the original and hits the mark with a positive message, but probably runs 20 minutes too long and tried to pack in too many plot elements.

For those seeing a “Barbershop” film for the first time, a brief primer: In the original, shop owner Calvin Palmer (Ice Cube) has second thoughts about selling the business he inherited from his father to pay off a loan shark. In “Barbershop 2: Back in Business” (2004), gentrification comes to the neighborhood and Calvin and his cohorts try to deal with that.

This time, it’s 12 years later. Calvin is still running the shop and he and his pals are still arguing about everything from racism and politics to romance and fashion. But now the cadre of male barbers shares space with a women’s salon – featuring Nicki Minaj as stylist Draya, constantly displaying the physical attribute that has made her famous – and with a street hustler named One-Stop played by J.B. Smoove, playing his fast-talking self, as usual.

But the real story here is the real violence that is plaguing Chicago, leading to the nickname “Chiraq,” which is also the name of a very different movie directed by Spike Lee. Calvin and his wife Angie (Regina Hall) are terrified that their only son Jalen (Michael Rainey Jr.) has gotten in with the wrong crowd and is about to join a gang.

Unknown to his partners, his employees and his regulars, Calvin is quietly working with One Stop to relocate to a safer location on the North Side while his son slides ever closer to a decision that will ruin – and possibly end – his life.

Subplots include Calvin’s co-worker Rashad (Common) trying to save his faltering marriage in the face of Draya’s pursuit, and J.D. (Anthony Anderson) who is still a scam artist trying to fleece the community with his newest venture, a food truck.

The one thing you can count on is that every time Cedric as Eddie the elderly barber opens his mouth, funny will come out. When gunfire erupts and everyone in the shop hits the floor, he says: “I ain’t getting down there. It’ll take me too long to get back up.”

No one is going to be talking about this film when awards season rolls around next time. But chances are good that you’ll leave the theater with a smile on your face.

Considering the real-life subject matter, maybe that’s worthy of a prize.


“Barbershop 3: The Next Cut”

2.5 stars (out of four)

Starring: Ice Cube, Common, Regina Hall, Cedric the Entertainer, Nicki Minaj

Director: Malcolm D. Lee

Running time: 112 minutes

Rating: PG-13 for sexual material and language.

The Lowdown: A barbershop owner and his regulars deal with violence in the neighborhood.


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