The film's opening, though, is real talk. In a voiceover catching viewers up on current events, Calvin underscores the violence plaguing the Southside. The constant threat facing Chicago's kids is The Next Cut's agenda and its heart, firmly in the right place. So if the execution is sometimes clunky, if it tries to fit in too many characters, plot points and conversation threads, at least all of that is in the service of a higher ideal.
Aside from the violence, though, the shop is also coping with having gone coed. That makes for plenty of fun conversation about dating and relationships, but it also means cramming the place with new stylists and a line of customers for the script to sort out. A film bursting with funny folks runs the risk of becoming a comedy cacophony, but fortunately, The Next Cut has two new secret weapons.
Lamorne Morris (New Girl) plays barber Jerrod, who's essentially the shop's voice of reason. He's a feminist and a nerd, which means he's also a target for all the old-school dudes to clown on. Morris' low-key delivery and precision timing cut through the louder, brasher comedy, and freshens the film's vibe.
Entirely Morris' opposite, but even more effective, is a little up-and-coming actress named Nicki Minaj. Playing stylist Dreya, Minaj prowls the shop in my-eyes-are-up-here outfits, hoping to lure Common's Rashad, who's having problems with wife Terri (Eve), in some play time. The performing-arts high school grad isn't merely funny, she's so commanding that while you never forget she's Nicki Minaj, you never want to stop watching her, either. I'm not saying she steals the film – there's just too much on its plate for that to happen – but future Nicki co-stars should watch out. She's coming for you.
The rest of the cast have their moments, from Cedric the Entertainer as greybeard Eddie to J.B. Smoove as a hustler named One-Stop, to comedian Deon Cole, who can't help but remind us why he's so missed from the cast of Blackish. Michael Rainey Jr. gets the heavier moments as Calvin's son, Jalen, teetering on the edge of joining a gang (yes, that is Tyga doing the recruiting), even as his dad tries to organize a ceasefire in the community.
That said, Barbershop isn't styled to everyone's taste. You can see the tracks in this weave, as director Malcolm D. Lee tries to pull it all together. But that doesn't diminish The Next Cut's effectiveness as either entertainment or education. It's always worth a pop into the 'Shop for some conversation in the coif-eteria.