The effortless charisma of Ice Cube and Cedric the Entertainer, the headliners of the first two Barbershop movies (released in 2002 and 2004), helped keep those over-plotted comedies buoyant. Cube and Cedric are back as Calvin and Eddie in Barbershop: the Next Cut, but even their enormous appeal can't rescue the third installment in the franchise. The Next Cut is glutted even more than its predecessors with ancient fellas-versus-females debates, ungainly sociopolitical commentary and top-40 superstars trying to diversify their brands.
"Lately, we've been having trouble," laments Calvin, the owner of the South Side shop that bears his name. Calvin is determined to stay in the neighborhood, despite the gun violence that has plagued Chicago; to keep solvent, he has expanded his one-time all-male sanctum to include a ladies' salon overseen by green-ringleted Angie (Regina Hall). Yet the coed space only intensifies the Mars/Venus divide: "The only man you can trust is the man upstairs," fumes stylist Bree (Margot Bingham), one of several lines suggesting a T.D. Jakes homily.
The intragender feuds are just as fractious. Bree often clashes with coworker Draya (Nicki Minaj), a weave specialist who must also contend with some serious side eye from Terri (Eve). The reigning hip-hop queen appears contractually obliged to say fleek, if only to provoke old-timer Eddie's grumpy lecture on neologisms. The smack talk is much sharper and funnier between the gray panther and One-Stop (J.B. Smoove). But the film too often relies on rote sermonizing when tackling the city's scourge of shootings, a grave topic that The Next Cut is simply too feeble to examine with any real depth or meaning.