Although I've enjoyed Ice Cube's performances in the past, I was largely disapointed with the rapper's recent "All About The Benjamins", which was a dull, unfunny actioner. "Barbershop", thankfully, is a turn in the right direction - a funny, heartwarming tale of a neighborhood on Chicago's South Side that became an enormous hit for MGM (who certainly needed one) earlier this year.
The film stars Cube as Calvin, the owner of a barbershop that serves as the center of the community and a place where quite a few tales are told. The shop has been in Calvin's family for years, but the bills are piling up and Calvin's going to lose the shop (and his dreams of a recording studio) if things don't turn around soon. Unfortunately, he makes a quick decision to sell to a local businessman who, while claiming to keep the "barbershop" sign out front, will turn it into something quite different - a gentleman's club.
Realizing his error and the importance of his shop in the community, Calvin decides to try and get his shop back - unfortunately, it won't be that easy. At the same time, there's also JD (Anthony Anderson) and Billy (Lahmard Tate), two clumsy robbers who are constantly shown trying to move an unopened ATM around town. Mainly though, this is a film about talking - a play of sorts that successfully turns little incidents into some very amusing comedy (rapper Eve, as one of the barbers, turns the question of who drank her apple juice into something hilarious) and offers the audience some memorable characters (Cube, Cedric the Entertainer, Eve and others really give solid performances). There's not a whole lot to it, but it's fast, funny and charming.
2002's "Barbershop" was a $12m production that went on to make $75m theatrically, not to mention additional revenue on video/DVD. The film was a a hit because it emphasized community, had heart, humor, drama and - despite featuring a largely African American cast - appealed to many different audiences.
The sequel is another clever, entertaining picture dealing with the neighborhood. Calvin (Ice Cube)'s Barbershop is still around and still entertaining the customers. Eddie (Cedric The Entertainer) is still saying things about current events that no one in the shop can believe he just said.
While everything starts off peacefully, it's not long before the shop is threatened again: this time, a developer (Harry Lenix) has purchased the site across the street and intends to turn it into a "Nappy Cutz", a giant, utterly high-tech haircut franchise. Unfortunately, the city counsel isn't on Calvin's side, as the local alderman is trying to advance a gentrification project for the area that would threaten the local businesses. Jimmy (Sean Patrick Thomas), who worked in the barbershop before, now works in the alderman's office and is trying to promote change from within.
Elsewhere, Terri (Eve) returns as the barber who hooks the focus of all of the male barbers and patrons. The owner of the local beauty parlor (Queen Latifah) also figures into the proceedings and squares off against Eddie, although Latifah's character in this movie seems somewhat like a promo insert for the talented actress's upcoming "Barbershop" spin-off.
Nicely directed by Kevin Rodney Sullivan, the film often inserts clips from the character's pasts, which allows the audience to further be involved with them and see the characters develop. The performances are once again superb, adding spark to the well-written material - Ice Cube, Cedric and Eve are stand-outs. Tom Priestley's cinematography captures Chicago and the neighborhoods quite well, too.
Overall, the characters are still appealing, the story is once again involving and - this is about the best compliment I could give a sequel - I'd be happy to join these characters for a third round.
VIDEO: "Barbershop" is presented by MGM in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is a pretty solid transfer that, while not flawless, offered a solid representation of the film's visuals. Sharpness and detail are solid, as while fine detail wasn't apparent too often, the picture still remained bright, crisp and well-defined.
The picture only showed a few minor flaws here and there, but certainly nothing too problematic. Only slight edge enhancement was visible during a couple of scenes, but this hardly caused much concern. No artifacts or print flaws were spotted during the picture.
The film's warm color palette, with some bright colors occasionally standing out in the Wintery setting, looked terrific, with no smearing and well-saturated, rich colors. Flesh tones looked natural and accurate, too. A very nice effort from MGM.
SOUND: "Barbershop" is presented by MGM in Dolby Digital 5.1. This is a decent soundtrack that is about as enveloping as one could expect given the dialogue-driven material. The surrounds are fairly low-key or silent throughout the picture, as there's little in the way of ambience and there certainly could have been more in the way of reinforcement of the music by the rear speakers. Still, there's elements to like: the rap soundtrack has a nice, bassy feel and dialogue remains natural and clear throughout.
VIDEO: "Barbershop 2" is presented by MGM/UA in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is another terrific transfer from the studio, whose last few efforts I've reviewed have looked superb. Sharpness and detail are largely excellent, as the picture boasts a surprising and pleasing level of definition and clarity.
The only flaw in the presentation was a little bit of compression artifacting, which was hardly noticable. Edge enhancement did not appear at all, while the print looked perfectly fine - no debris, wear or other flaws. Colors remained bright, natural and crisp throughout, with no smearing or other issues.
SOUND: "Barbershop 2" is presented by MGM in Dolby Digital 5.1. The film's soundtrack is pretty front-heavy, with the beats of the rap songs mostly spread across the front speakers, with only minimal reinforcement from the surrounds. Dialogue remains crisp and clear throughout, while bass from the songs on the soundtrack provides a nice, if not overwhelming, thump underneath.
Commentary: This is a commentary from director Tim Story, producer Robert Teitel, producer George Tillman, Jr. and writer Don Scott, Jr. This is generally a fun and informative track, as the four provide a lively, silly and insightful chat about the production process of the film, talking about material that didn't make it into the movie and sharing stories about some of the things that happened during the shoot. There's a few little pauses of silence and slow points, but the party atmosphere offers an entertaining time and I liked hearing the opinions of these four about the characters, the story, their relationships and the fun they all had during the filming.
The Hair Club: This is a nearly 40-minute documentary that is split into four sections, each providing a look at different aspects of the production (character, production design, etc.) While well-produced and full of insightful interviews, I couldn't help but feel as if much of this was covered in the commentary.
Also: Seven deleted scenes with optional commentary from director Tim Story; Barber School interactive game; a few minutes of very funny outtakes; "Trade it All" music video; behind-the-scenes photo gallery; trailers for "Barbershop", "Rollerball" and "What's the Worst that Could Happen?".
EXTRAS: Two commentary tracks are included - one with Cedric the Entertainer, Troy Garity, Sean Patrick Thomas and Jaszmin Lewis and the other with producers Bob Teitel and George Tillman, Jr. and director Kevin Rodney Sullivan. The actor's commentary is fine enough - the group seem to be having a good time watching the flick again and occasionally come up with some interesting comments about each other and the production. Unfortunately, the word is "occasionally": there are times when they seem caught up in watching the film. This is a video/audio commentary - a small box occasionally pops up at the bottom showing the cast watching the film. The director's commentary is a bit more informative, with a lot of nice recollections about working with the cast and shooting on location in Chicago with a bigger budget and different ideas for the second film. Of additional interest is the discussions of working with a quick shooting time, as the studio was eager to get another installment in theaters.
Aside from the commentaries, viewers will find 6 deleted scenes with cast/crew commentary, several minutes of amusing outtakes, music videos from Sleepy Brown and Mary J. Blige (featuring Eve); photo gallery, theatrical trailer and promos for other MGM titles.
The set offers an additional promo DVD that includes a 6-minute promotional featurette that looks at the upcoming "Beauty Shop". The featurette was fairly thin, but amusing and offered some decent interviews from the cast and behind-the-scenes clips.
The set also includes a "Barbershop" headband and postcards.
Final Thoughts: Like the new "Legally Blonde" set, "Barbershop" is a nice repackaging of both films. I still think both "Barbershops" are fun, enjoyable movies, with good performances and great characters. The only issue is that one can very likely find both "Barbershop" and "Barbershop 2" cheaper separately than if bought together in this box.