Rated PG-13 for profanity, ethnic slurs and sexuality
Calvin And Company Reunite For Sobering Sequel With A Social Conscious
There’s been a big change at Calvin’s Barbershop since our last visit over a decade ago. The once-sacred male sanctuary has been converted to a unisex salon, and some feisty female employees have brought a new flava to the former man cave, including manager Angie (Regina Hall), flamboyant Draya (Nicki Minaj) and cynical Bree (Margot Bingham).
Besides Ice Cube as Calvin, among the regulars reprising their roles are Jazmin Lewis as his wife, Eve as Terri, Cedric the Entertainer as Eddie, Anthony Anderson as J.D., Sean Patrick Harris as Jimmy, and Troy Garrity as Isaac. The cast also boasts a number of newcomers, most notably, scene-stealing J.B. Smoove as motor-mouthed One-Stop, Deon Cole as Dante, and Common whose character, Rashad, is married to Eve.
As the film unfolds, we’re treated to a montage of file footage featuring Reverend Al Sharpton and Father Pfleger, as well as news stories about the uptick in drive-by shootings on the South Side of Chicago. The situation has left Calvin in a quandary about whether it might be wise to relocate the establishment to a safer section of the city.
More importantly, he’s worried about the safety of his adolescent son, Jalen (Michael Rainey, Jr.), despite the fact the boy is enrolled at Holy Cross Catholic School. For, on his way home, the kid has to negotiate his way through a gauntlet of gangstas pressuring him to join their ranks.
Meanwhile, street violence seems to claim another young person’s life on a daily basis, with some of it hitting a little too close to home. This inspires Calvin to host a peace summit in a desperate attempt to negotiate a ceasefire between the bitter rivals, the Vice Lords and the G.D.s.
Besides addressing the escalating murder rate, the picture does devote plenty of scenes to its trademark levity. One moment, we’re treated to an old-fashioned battle-of-the-sexes. The next, there’s a debate over President Obama’s commitment to the black community. And the most comic relief comes courtesy of trash-talking One-Stop, who has an endless supply of market items for sale: nickel bags of weed to baby pit bulls to watermelon-flavored fried chicken.
Directed by Malcolm Lee (The Best Man), Barbershop: The Next Cut proves to be a pleasant surprise in that it tones down the campy comedy in favor of a serious social agenda. Easily the best installment in the beloved franchise, a movie which manages to entertain while delivering a sobering message that’s long overdue.
Although Gayle Kirschenbaum was raised in the comfy confines of suburban Five Towns on Long Island, her childhood was anything but ideal. Trouble is, she never felt loved by her mother, Mildred, who favored her three sons over the daughter she apparently never wanted.
Why wouldn’t a woman want to bond with her only daughter? “I think she was jealous of you,” one of Gayle’s sibling’s reflects. But could that explain why the mistreatment had ostensibly started at infancy?
“I feel like I’m adopted,” reads a journal entry she wrote as an adolescent. And her mother freely admits to having punished her as a toddler by giving her time out on top the refrigerator. “She was a bitchy, little girl growing up,” Mildred explains.
Furthermore, mom wasn’t fond of the curly hair and prominent nose which gave Gayle “an ethnic look.” And when you factor in a “loud, shrill and unpleasant personality,” the poor girl was stuck under the thumb of a hyper-critical Mommy Dearest.
Unfortunately, for Mildred, her late husband’s hobby was making home movies. And the reams of family footage he left behind are quite damning. There she is in her forties squeezing into a skimpy bathing suit, doing her best to upstage her bikinied daughter, radiant and full of the bloom of youth.
Gayle gets the last laugh in Look At Us Now, Mother!, a documentary deconstructing their decades-long dysfunctional relationship. The film features a mix of those old family videos with the present-day reflections of Gayle, her mom, her brothers and other friends and relatives.
A fascinating airing of dirty laundry leading to an overdue reconciliation between a browbeaten daughter and her merciless abuser.
Very Good (3 stars)
Running time: 84 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening April 15, 2016
Criminal (R for graphic violence and pervasive profanity) Suspense thriller about a recently-deceased CIA agent (Gal Gadot) whose memory and skills are implanted into the brain of a dangerous convict (Kevin Costner) in a desperate attempt to foil a terrorist plot. With Tommy Lee Jones, Ryan Reynolds, Alice Eve and Gary Oldman.
The Jungle Book (PG for scenes of peril and scary action) Live-action/CGI remake of the Disney animated classic revolving around an orphan (Neel Sethi) raised in the forest by a panther (Ben Kingsley), a bear (Bill Murray) and a couple of wolves (Lupita Nyong’o and Giancarlo Esposito). Cast includes Idris Elba, Scarlett Johansson, Christopher Walken and the late Garry Shandling.
13 Cameras (Unrated) Psychological thriller about a couple of newlyweds (PJ McCabe and Brianne Moncrief) whose Peeping Tom landlord (Neville Archambault) invades their privacy by secretly installing surveillance cameras all around their new home. With Sarah Baldwin, Sean Carrigan and Jim Cummings.
The Adderall Diaries (R for sexuality, drug use, disturbing content and pervasive profanity) James Franco stars in this adaptation of reporter Stephen Elliott’s memoir of the same name recounting his struggle with substance abuse and writer’s block while covering a bizarre murder trial. Cast includes Amber Heard, Cynthia Nixon, Ed Harris, Christian Slater and Wilmer Valderrama.
Hostile Border (R for violence, profanity, nudity and graphic sexuality) American Dream drama about an undocumented immigrant’s (Veronica Sixtos) attempt to return to the U.S. after being deported to Mexico by the FBI for credit card fraud. With Jesse Garcia, Jorge Jimenez and Julio Cedillo. (In English and Spanish with subtitles)
The Measure Of A Man (Unrated) Midlife crisis drama, set in France, about the humiliations suffered by a blue-collar worker (Vincent Lindon) while trying to find employment after being laid off from his factory job. Support cast includes Yves Ory, Matthieu Schaller and Karine de Mirbeck. (In French with subtitles)
Our Last Tango (Unrated) Reverential biopic chronicling the 50-year career and enduring relationship of the most famous dance partners in the history of the Tango, Argentina’s Maria Nieves Rego and Juan Carlos Copes. (In Spanish with subtitles)
Sing Street (PG-13 for profanity, mature themes, bullying, drug use, teen smoking and a suggestive image) Coming-of-age tale, set in Dublin in the ’80s, revolving around a troubled 14-year-old (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) who runs away from home to start a rock band in London. With Aidan Gillen, Jack Reynor and Maria Doyle Kennedy.
Sky (Unrated) Marital crisis drama about a battered French woman (Diane Kruger) who leaves her husband (Gilles Lellouche) for parts unknown while they’re vacationing in California. Cast includes Lena Dunham, Norman Reedus and Lou Diamond Phillips. (In English and French with subtitles)
The Syndrome (Unrated) Criminal justice exposé debunking the junk science underpinning the diagnosis of Shaken Baby Syndrome which has led to the conviction and incarceration of many an innocent person.