Whether riffing on race or politics or declaring that a cockroach in his apartment was so huge he mistook it for Shaquille O'Neal, Cedric the Entertainer is one funny guy. In the guise of Eddie, a veteran barber whose mouth runs more than his clippers, the comic actor holds forth entertainingly in a breezy, welcome sequel.
Like 2002's modest original, Barbershop 2 is set primarily inside Calvin's Barbershop, a de facto community center on Chicago's South Side. This time the shop's namesake proprietor (Cube) worries that his small business faces extinction when a national chain announces plans to open a salon across the street. This allows the movie to debate such hot-button issues as the pros and cons of urban development and to poke fun at peacock politicians given to speaking in rhyme. And, as in the earlier film, Cedric gets off a few possibly controversial lines, such as referring to sniper John Allen Muhammad as "the Jackie Robinson of crime."
Much of the original cast returns and each gets a moment to shine. New to the cutting crew is Latifah, who sashays about as the sharp-tongued owner of a beauty salon next door. She's carrying a bit of a torch for the contentedly wed Calvin. "He opted for the Happy Meal instead of the Super Size," she says, pointing to her ample hips and shaking her head as if she still can't believe he'd be so dumb. (PG-13)