There is an interesting trend that seems to be going on in Hollywood right now. Contrary to the record of history, sequels are starting to turn out better, not worse, than their original productions. X2 was better than X-Men, Spidey 2 was better than the first, and each installment in the The Lord of the Rings trilogy built upon the previous episode to an eventual Best Picture climax. I am thrilled that this is the case, since there are more sequels being made now than ever before.
…p>The trend seems to work better with dramas and action films than it does with comedies, though. For every Kill Bill Vol. 2 out there, there seem to be six or seven The Whole Ten Yards’. Understandably, it was with some trepidation that I approached my viewing of Barbershop 2. Thankfully, when it come to this comedy, the positive trend continues. I have no problems saying that this film was better than the first one in just about every way. Obviously, the budget was bigger, which allowed for expanded sets and a larger cast. Apparently it allowed for even funnier writers this time around as well, as the jokes come at a fast and furious pace.
Even the themes of the plot were more uplifting. In the first film, Calvin (Ice Cube) is struggling with his choice to keep the shop open. This time around, however, his focus is on defeating the corporate empire, presented under the banner of Nappy Cuts, a Supercuts franchise for the ghetto, which is planning to open across the street. This film has elements of You’ve Got Mail in that sense, but instead of the second storyline being romance, it is the life of Eddie, the old barber played by Cedric the Entertainer. Cedric shows surprising depth in this role, as he is not only funny, but the film shows the struggles that he has faced throughout his life, which add richness and heart to his character.
Barbershop 2 provides more laughs, more drama, and more heart than the initial go around. If you enjoyed the first film, you really can’t go wrong by picking this one up as well.
MGM almost always does a great job with the audio and video quality on their discs, and this release is no exception. The audio track on this disc is clear and tasteful, while not being more than it should be. It seems like so many times, DVDs are mixed more aggressively than the subject matter suggests they should be, and the result is a closing car door that sounds like a gunshot, or a blender that sounds like a helicopter. Luckily, that is not the case here, as hyper-realism is avoided for the sake of making the viewer feel involved in the film. In fact, that is one of the things that I liked most about the audio and video on this release… they really work to put the viewer in the environment. Instead of watching some people chatting in a barber shop, the technical quality of this disc makes the viewer feel that they are actually in the shop, and part of the conversation. With a film such as this one, that makes all the difference.
Dialog is clear, and nicely anchored to the center channel. Surrounds are used to good effect, as they add ambiance, but don’t go out of their way to make their presence known. Music cues are full, and bass tones have a tight, punctuating tone. All good things for a dialog-driven comedy.
The video compliments the audio quite nicely. This is also a clean and clear presentation, with no blemishes or grain present to speak of. Black levels are deep, and colors are realistic, while not being overblown. The use of handheld cameras for some of the scenes inside the barber shop helps to support that previously-mentioned feeling of the viewer being a part of the action. Especially impressive is the way in which the scenes that are both black and white and color are handled. Colors are true, but do not bleed over into the neighboring black and white images. By the same token, the black and white bits are rich and full, and do not appear to be faded in comparison to the parts of the frame with color. This is not an easy feat to pull off, but it is done to perfection here.
It seems like the first movie had more in the way of special features included on the disc. Maybe it is just because it had a “making-of” featurette. At any rate, the list of extras on this disc appear more impressive than they actually are.
First up is the token collection of trailers for the feature, as well as some for other similarly-themed productions. Also included is a photo gallery that is made up of both cast photos and on-set shots. A short section of outtakes is actually much less entertaining than I would have expected it to be, considering the high level of the talent that worked on this production.
Quality and entertainment value improve with the inclusion of some deleted scenes. I was particularly impressed with the options of watching the scenes as they appear, or with the aided guidance of cast introductions or commentary. This was a nice touch that really added something to these scenes. There are also two music videos included on the disc, the quality of which are purely a matter of individual taste.
Finally, there are two feature-length commentaries; one audio, and one video. I was disappointed with the video commentary, because the second screen is not visible throughout the film, but instead it comes and goes. Even when it is present, it is very small, and hard to see. I prefer a video commentary like the one on the Special Edition DVD set of Jerry Maguire, where the big screen is the commentary, and the small screen shows the film, for reference. I was also disappointed by the dull nature of this track. Luckily, the audio commentary had much more interesting information. While it was still not immensely entertaining, it was much more informative than the video track. For film buffs that would like to know more about some of the technical aspects of shooting the film, this is the commentary for you.
While I would have liked to have seen more extras here, this disc really comes through where it counts. Sound is good, picture is better, and the film is immensely entertaining. This genuine film has comedy, but it also has heart. If you are looking for a quality alternative to the endless line of teen gross-out comedies that seem to have over-run the comedy genre as of late, you can’t go wrong with Barbershop 2.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- Video Commentary
- Deleted Scenes
- 2 Music Videos
- Photo Gallery