Ice Cube triumphantly returns as Calvin Palmer, proud proprietor of a neighborhood barbershop in Barbershop 2. The first Barbershop was a surprise smash; even more surprising is how good this sequel is. The plot isn't much--there's a corporate haircutting chain opening across the street, leading to the usual sentiments about the importance of small businesses and neighborhoods--but the well-conceived characters and the loose, genuine banter give this movie a striking richness of feeling. Barbershop 2 cuts back and forth in time, flashing back to when Eddie (garrulous Cedric the Entertainer), the shop's oldest and most outspoken barber, first came to work for Calvin's father. Glimpses of black history give weight to the modern-day struggles; most impressively, this device doesn't feel forced or cynical. Also returning are Eve, Troy Garity, and Sean Patrick Thomas; Queen Latifah (Bringing Down the House) is a new face on the block. --Bret Fetzer
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