With Kevin Rodney Sullivan taking over directing duties from Tim Story and "Barbershop" co-writer Don D. Scott handling chores solo this time out, "Barbershop 2" picks up soon after the first film left off and finds that things are mostly the same with the exception of Jimmy (Sean Patrick Thomas), who has moved on to become an aide to a local politician, and Ricky (Michael Ealy), who appears to have rededicated himself to a more responsible life. A large community redevelopment project, however, brings the gang closer than ever when a fancy haircutting chain known as Nappy Cutz gets ready to set up shop across the street. Suddenly, it's a crash-course in capitalism and competition for Calvin and the gang as they're forced to reconcile progress with a sense of community.
The more serious and topical nature of the plot is only one area in which "Barbershop 2" seeks to expand upon its predecessor. The film's primary subplot features Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer) in a series of flashbacks that chart his relationship with Calvin's father throughout the Civil Rights era, underscoring the historic role that the barbershop played throughout those volatile years. Unlike the previous film, which dipped into frivolity and slapstick with a sidebar about a stolen ATM machine, "Barbershop 2" has more serious matters on its mind. That's not to say that the filmmakers aren't aware of how controversial the first film was--if anything, they seem hell-bent on making sure that "Barbershop 2" continues the tradition with at least two more tirades from Eddie that are sure to raise eyebrows just as much as those in the previous picture.
To their immense credit, though, Sullivan and Scott never let the film's more serious themes and topics undermine its fundamentally comedic underpinnings--for in its soul, "Barbershop 2" is still a comedy, ripe with memorable lines and witty predicaments. Thoughtful and humorous in equal measure, it's a complete and satisfying package that manages that most elusive of cinematic tricks: It delivers on its promises. Starring Ice Cube, Cedric the Entertainer, Sean Patrick Thomas, Eve, Troy Garity, Michael Ealy, Leonard Earl Howze and Harry Lennix. Directed by Kevin Rodney Sullivan. Written by Don D. Scott. Produced by Robert Teitel, George Tillman Jr. and Alex Gartner. An MGM release. Comedy. Rated PG-13 for language, sexual material and brief drug references. Running time: 102 min