Easy dozens and feel-good buzz saved the first Barbershop from its own moralistic claptrap, even if half the time Cedric the Entertainer’s Eddie seemed to be channeling J.C. Watts. But it really was a black movie that conservative whites could love. In B2, South Side Chicago proprietor Calvin (Ice Cube) fights gentrification, and things feel even more like Sunday school.
Cube is still adorable, but the potentially poppin’ battle between the shop and big-box competitor Nappy Cuts gets obscured by sloppy chronology and flat, cartoonish politicos. And most in-shop snaps drone on preachily about taking responsibility, getting skills, paying bills, keeping a man, being a man, and dealing with “broke-ass black folks.” Queen Latifah represents for big girls (look for a beauty-shop spin-off), but Eve seems enervated by her goody-two-shoes subplot. Even the topical cracks are a few beats late—banter about the D.C. sniper as “the Jackie Robinson of crime,” or, for the ladies, the alluring freakiness of Bill Clinton. More than the first flick, this one pits the upstanding against the riffraff. Witness the ’60s flashbacks that find a younger Eddie chasing a window-smashing, Molotov-cocktail-brandishing rioter—lensed like a 28 Days Later zombie—from the front of the fledgling shop. In the background, black insurgents clobber a white cop. “Why do we do this?” Eddie and Calvin’s father wonders as the city burns. Why, when entrepreneurial security is just a bootstrap tug away?