It’s pleasing to be back in the Barbershop with righteous owner Calvin (Ice Cube, as confident and winning as ever), with black history trampling Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer, whose natty gray afro alone is still a gas) and the rest of their trash-talking staff. Executive Producer Cube has stocked his sitcom-friendly playhouse with enough vivid characters, potent one-liners, and timely subject matter (with this week’s episode focusing on the evils of gentrification) to keep things lively and earnest. Barbershop 2 also tosses in some vivid flashbacks to the ’60s, complete with Black Panthers, brothas helping brothas, a younger Cedric as a suit-sportin’ love daddy, and a fiery Chicago riot on the evening of Dr. King’s assassination. It’s not Do the Right Thing by any stretch, artistically or cinematically, but Barbershop 2 is occasionally charged in its cookie cutter history lessons and Afterschool Special moralizing (albeit with a smartly timed potty mouth). It suffers from familiarity, lacking the freshness of the original and over-reliant on moving its plot along instead of coasting along on its observational humor. It’s also padded out with too much of a good thing: Cedric has a dull romantic subplot, and spicy Queen Latifah’s beauty shop feels crammed in (a plug for the upcoming spin-off). Literally climaxing with a politician-worthy podium speech, Barbershop 2 has too many creaks in its gears to earn a wholehearted recommendation. But unlike the steadily deflating Friday series, this Cube vision has preserved its heart, integrity, and laugh-a-minute temerity.
Ah, the wonders of a big budget. Barbershop 2 isn’t exactly better than its predecessor but it certainly looks and sounds better. Save for the occasional compression artifacts and some screwy shadow delineation here and there, this transfer was struck from a clean and incredibly sharp print. Colors are excellent all around and blacks are rock-solid. And considering the film’s uncomplicated sound design, the surround track’s dynamic range is rather impressive.
Don’t fret if you can’t access the commentary tracks available on the Agent Cody Banks 2 and Barbershop 2 DVD via the audio button on your remote control. MGM has gotten freaky deaky by making their respective commentary tracks a little more interactive. On this Barbershop 2 disc, not only do you get to hear the banal commentary tracks, but you get to see the cast and crew in PIP-style blocks on the screen from time to time. Rounding out the hearty supplemental materials are six deleted scenes, a series of outtakes, music videos for Mary J. Blige’s "Not Today" and Sleepy Brown’s "I Can’t Wait," two behind-the-scenes photo galleries, and trailers for the original Barbershop, Bulletproof Monk, Dark Blue, Out of Time, Beauty Shop, Agent Cody Banks 2, Walking Tall, and Soul Plane.
The red, white, and blue barber’s pole is getting a little rusty, but fans of the wholesome franchise probably couldn’t care less.