"Barbershop 2: Back in Business" is that rare sequel — one worthy of its original. "Barbershop," set in a vintage Chicago South Side tonsorial parlor, was a hilarious and ingratiating hit last year, its box office no doubt helped by a flap over Cedric the Entertainer, as the shop's senior barber, making some outrageously politically incorrect remarks about such African American icons as Rosa Parks. (Never mind that everyone else in the shop was appalled; the whole point is that a neighborhood barber shop is a traditional forum of free speech, no matter how ridiculous or abhorrent.)
As the irrepressible Eddie, Cedric is still shooting his mouth off, among other things, about the D.C.-area snipers and the shenanigans of the most recent former president. Calvin (Ice Cube) and his staff are back, and Queen Latifah runs a beauty parlor next door.
The first time around, the levelheaded Calvin found himself the reluctant heir of a barbershop in a declining area that his father had opened in 1958. By the end of the film, Calvin discovers how like his father he actually is and sees the value of struggling to keep their shop going as the neighborhood institution it has become. "Barbershop 2" works so well because Don D. Scott, who co-wrote the first film with Mark Brown, has taken care to create a rich context for the picture as well as furthering its plot in an inspired and timely fashion.
The film's splendid opening credit sequence features a collage of images tracing the history of black Chicago, which helps establish Calvin's barbershop as a community institution. Now it has become the anchor to a revival of the neighborhood, which in turn has perversely made it a target for developers in cahoots with the slick local alderman (Robert Wisdom). Suddenly the barbershop's block is threatened with an invasion of chain operations, including, smack across the street, an ultra deluxe barbershop promoted by the very smooth Quentin Leroux (Harry Lennix).
As Calvin copes with this new challenge, there's plenty of time for his barbers to carry on as usual. Eve's chip-on-her-shoulder Terri has calmed down a lot, but edgy ex-con Ricky (Michael Ealy) is falling in love with her. Sean Patrick Thomas' Jimmy has moved on, having graduated from college, but the machinations of the developers will soon place him in a moral quandary. Leonard Earl Howze's Dinka, a Nigerian immigrant, still carries a torch for Terri, and Troy Garity's Isaac, a young white guy whom Calvin gave his break into barbering, is still on hand, still adopting homeboy speech and mannerisms. Good guy that he is, Calvin also has found a chair for his wife's thickheaded cousin (Kenan Thompson), fresh out of barber school.
Beneath the film's abundant, good-natured bantering, its socially conscious undercurrents flow steadily, and director Kevin Rodney Sullivan mixes the serious and the hilarious with considerable ease. The filmmakers clearly put considerable thought and imagination into making as a good a sequel as they could, and their efforts have paid off with "Barbershop 2," with its pleasing blend of humor, sentiment and commentary.
'Barbershop 2: Back in Business'MPAA rating: PG-13, for language, sexual material and brief drug referencesTimes guidelines: Suitable family fareIce Cube...CalvinCedric the Entertainer...EddieSean Patrick Thomas...JimmyEve...TerriTroy Garity...IsaacAn MGM presentation of a State Street Pictures/Cube Vision production. Director Kevin Rodney Sullivan. Producers Robert Teitel, George Tillman Jr., Alex Gartner. Executive producers Ice Cube, Matt Alvarez, Mark Brown. Screenplay by Don D. Scott; based on characters created by Mark Brown. Cinematographer Tom Priestley. Editor Paul Seydor. Music Richard Gibbs. Additional music by Wu-Tang Clan featuring The RZA. Costumes Jennifer Bryan. Production designer Robb Wilson King. Art director Craig Jackson. Set decorator Daniel Clancy.Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes.In general release.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times