While Ice Cube is still likable the second time out, filmmakers have gotten carried away with Eddie, giving him much more screen time, including flashbacks to 1967. The charm of Cedric's Eddie, a marble-mouthed, opinionated troublemaker with one of screendom's funniest-looking afros, is better taken in small doses.
Like the original, Barbershop 2: Back in Business seems intent on showing the rigors of small-business ownership. Barbershop owner Calvin (Cube) has gotten his business back after selling to loan sharks in the original, and now he's faced with land developers trying to buy his property and modernize his portion of the Chicago business district. The plan to take over the barbershop includes a sleazy politician (Robert Wisdom) and a mean-spirited land developer (Harry Lennix). They intend to open a Nappy Cutz across the street, a full service salon that, in addition to offering everything for beauty needs, boasts a basketball court and clippers so advanced they aren't even on the market yet.
As for Eddie, he gets a whole subplot involving a mystery woman on the South Side Chicago train, and flashbacks revealing why he doesn't have to pay rent at the barbershop. The original film got in some trouble for Eddie's controversial take on Rosa Parks, and this one says a few shocking things about the D.C. sniper. Eddie's rants about the psycho should merit a few disgruntled e-mails, but it's doubtful this film will stir up trouble comparable to the first.
Cedric the Entertainer can be funny, but as Eddie, he can also be tough to understand at times. His mush-mouthed delivery (and the noisy jerks sitting nearby in the movie theater) caused me to lose some of his dialogue. Making Eddie a more fleshed-out character full of romance and drama feels like a desperate attempt to cash in on his appeal. Eddie warrants nothing more than the occasional spotlight he got in the first film. Listening to his wisecracks, when they are audible, can be fun, but do we really need to learn about his love life?
It's pretty funny that the film is preaching a message about the evils of big franchises encroaching upon the little people, when one of the film's main reasons for existing is to introduce a character for a spin-off "film franchise." Queen Latifah appears as Gina in what amounts to little more than a cameo. Her brief scenes, mostly next door to Calvin's shop at a women's beauty salon, are not funny. That doesn't bode well for Beauty Shop, Latifah's spin-off project featuring the same character due for release later this year.
Ice Cube, who was terrible in Torque, the motorcycle movie in which he did nothing but scowl, gets a chance to show his softer side with Calvin, and he's a strong screen presence. Too bad the trials and tribulations being faced by Calvin this time out feel like nothing but an echo of the first installment. Returning as the sole female cutting men's heads in Calvin's shop, Eve is equally appealing, even when Don D. Scott's script places her in sophomoric, ill conceived romantic garbage with fellow cutter Ricky (Michael Ealy).
Barbershop 2 is just an example of a decent, one-movie premise getting stretched a little too thin. Beauty Shop could continue that problem, and I wouldn't be surprised if Barbershop 3: Eddie Gets Naked and Nasty is in the works.