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Hip Hop Stars, Cedric the Entertainer Reunite for <i>Barbershop 2: Back In Business</i> - 2004-02-11

Ice Cube, Cedric the Entertainer and Eve head the cast returning for more stimulating and raw conversation amid the haircuts in a rollicking sequel to a 2002 surprise hit. Alan Silverman has a look at Barbershop 2: Back In Business.

On the south side of Chicago, Calvin's barbershop is as much community center as it is a place to get haircuts. Ice Cube reprises his role as Calvin, trying to keep the traditional shop open in the face of corporate competition.

"Everybody out there has a place where they can go and be themselves and be brutally honest about what they think," he says. "They don't have to be politically correct inside the barbershop; and we're not, so come on, jump in the chair and we'll cut you up."

In that first film, however, some of the humor sparked controversy: in particular, an irreverent reference to revered civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks by Eddie, the outrageously outspoken oldest member of the Barbershop crew. Cedric The Entertainer returns as Eddie and says it would be wrong to tone down his character's tirades for the sake of political correctness.

"That's truly the point of the movie and what made me want to do the first film," he says. "I think that as a piece of art you are supposed to challenge; you are supposed to push the envelope ... In a lot of ways, we hope you come out of the movie with something more than just 'I was entertained.' It should be 'It made me think about something [and] caused me to have an opinion.' Especially inside the barbershop: it is truly a place where all people get to be themselves and say what you have to say; and you usually leave it inside the barbershop. You walk out and you're right back to whatever job or profession you carry; but inside this place we're all equal and you say what you have to say."

If the Rosa Parks routine raised hackles in the first Barbershop, Cedric the Entertainer (as Eddie) goes even farther in the sequel with a subject from recent headlines: the murders by the pair of black men who became known as the Washington D.C. snipers.

"We'll have to see what the public sentiment is. You never know," he says. "The Rosa Parks joke caused a firestorm last year [and] I don't think it was written in the script intentionally to start a firestorm, but definitely people found it offensive and those who did made a big deal about it. This joke could probably take on that same personality this year. It is quite a bit of a politically incorrect statement, but it is Eddie's particular point of view."

Like star Ice Cube, many cast members in Barbershop 2: Back In Business started as rap or hip hop performers including Eve, back with clippers in hand as the sole female barber.

"I'm similar to her in the feistiness, but I'm not as angry as she is," Eve says. "Of course, I've been through relationship issues so I can relate to her with that."

Director Kevin Sullivan, whose previous work includes the romantic hit How Stella Got Her Groove Back, says he was pleasantly surprised by the acting skill of the rap artists.

"I was initiated into the hip-hop nation on this film and I didn't expect them to be as gifted as they are as actors. They are really gifted actors ... those who are focused and do the work," he says. "You have to do the work wherever you come from; and I think what makes them successful in the hip-hop world helps them in the film world because, basically, the camera doesn't take your picture, it reads your soul."

Barbershop 2: Back In Business also has Queen Latifah as owner of the beauty parlor next door: the setting for a spin-off movie of its own that is being filmed for next year.