South Central’s Ice Cube and Brooklyn’s Spike Lee hail from opposite coasts, but lately they’ve found common ground in a city almost equidistant: Chicago. Lee’s wild satire “Chi-Raq,” a gangster-ized version of Aristophanes’ “Lysistrata” from last year, addressed the ongoing violence on the city’s South Side. In a less erudite fashion, Cube’s new comedy, “Barbershop: The Next Cut,” does the same.
The third film in the “Barbershop” franchise (not counting the spinoff “Beauty Shop”) stars Cube as Calvin, who long ago abandoned his big dreams to run his late father’s South Side barbershop. (Cue the hip-hop theme to “It’s a Wonderful Life.”) The shop isn’t just a business but a social hub where folks spread gossip, dissect the news and speak the truth. Eavesdropping on the conversations — staged though they are — has always been the best part of these movies. (Heaven knows it isn’t the threadbare plots.)
That’s still true in “The Next Cut,” directed by Malcolm D. Lee (a cousin to Spike) and written by Kenya Barris (ABC’s “Black-ish”) with Tracy Oliver. The banter starts almost immediately, and it crackles with life. Here in Calvin’s shop, Isaac Rosenberg (Troy Garity) can freely admit he prefers “the sisters,” even while black women grumble that black men prefer Kim Kardashian to Lupita Nyong’o.
All of this is great fun; too bad it has to end so the storylines can begin. Calvin and his buddy Rashad (Common) have sons who are flirting with the gangster life; Rashad is trying to avoid the clutches of oversexed Draya (a very good Nicki Minaj); the slick businessman One-Stop (JB Smoove) floats Calvin a questionable loan, a plot so similar to the original film’s that Smoove repeats a few lines and gestures.
The main story involves Calvin creating a South Side cease-fire by offering haircuts to rival gangs for free. It’s hard to grumble too much about “The Next Cut” when its heart is so clearly in the right place.