(Video on Demand, July 2016) It’s not that much of a surprise nor a contradiction if Barbershop: The Next Cut, fourth movie in the Barbershop universe, ends up tackling issues of community and gang violence. While the series’ best moments have almost always been the comic banter between the characters, its most satisfying entries (I’m not looking at you, Beauty Shop) have also highlighted the central place of the barber shop as a community hub, a forum to air out and resolve differences peacefully and a voluntary haven distinct from the outside world. To see this fourth film tackle gang violence in South Chicago and the choice between taking a stand or walking away feels appropriate. More entertainingly, the integrated barbershop is a step forward for the series, showing and profiting from the male and female perspective. Even the belated nature of this instalment, coming ten years after its predecessor, works to its advantage as things have or have not changed in the interim for both the characters and their world. Writer/star Ice Cube knows how to blend the inconsequential with the meaningful, and Barbershop: The Next Cut is as good as any pop-culture indicator of the state of the black community at the end of the Obama administration. (Guess who shows up after the credits roll?) As far as acting is concerned, there is a lot to like here: Ice Cube, Cedric the Entertainer and Regina Hall are up to their usual standards, while Eve, Common and Nicki Minaj both impress with natural performances. The result is an enjoyable blend of comedy, drama and social criticism, carefully calculated to balance each other. Sometimes, the most interesting commentary doesn’t come from loudspeakers, and Barbershop: The Next Cut is able to deliver some good material while looking as if it’s talking about nothing particularly important.
(On Cable TV, April 2015) Revenge fantasies may not be good for the soul, but they can certainly drive a comic film. Here, two (and then three) women are united when they discover that they’re being cheated upon by the same man, who also turns out to be a con artist in other ways. Cameron Diaz is dependably amusing as the lead, whereas Leslie Mann becomes a delightful foil as the most mercurial of them—she has the shrieking madwoman thing down to a science. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, in another striking big-screen role, does have the requisite mixture of charm and sliminess as a philandering fraudster. Other additions to the cast aren’t as memorable: Despite prominent billing, Kate Upton is a bit bland as the Third Woman, whereas I remain unimpressed by Nicki Minaj’s performance in her short scenes (and this despite unexplainably liking Minaj as a musical performer). It’s a cheap and fast comedy without much sophistication, but it does get the chuckles it’s aiming for. There are a few false notes along the way (the ending is a bit more bloodily cruel than I had expected) and the script doesn’t embarrass itself with unpredictable plotting, but The Other Woman pretty much hits its target and delivers unchallenging entertainment for a solid 90 minutes.