American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
Calvin's Barbershop is still in business as "Barbershop 2" opens, and the same barbers are at the same chairs, dealing with the usual customers discussing the day's events, and providing free advice on each other's lives. Just like the first movie, this is like a talk show where everybody is the host. The talk could go on forever, coiling from current events to current romances, but then danger strikes: Nappy Cutz, a slick franchise haircut emporium, is opening across the street, and it may put the little neighborhood shop out of business.
This would be disaster for Calvin (Ice Cube), whose operation is not single-mindedly devoted to profit. If it were, why would he give a prized chair to Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer), who hardly ever seems to cut any hair? We learn the answer to that mystery in the course of this movie, along with a little of Eddie's background: We see him in a flashback, protecting the shop from rioters and winning the lifelong gratitude of Calvin's father.
Even back then, Eddie was on the conservative side, and again in this movie he delivers his trademark riffs against African-American icons. Although others in the shop cringed when they learned the D.C. Sniper was black, for Eddie the contrarian that's something to be proud of: "He's the Jackie Robinson of crime." Alas, Eddie's I-Can't-Believe-He-Said-That act, which worked so well in the original "Barbershop," seems a little perfunctory and obligatory this time, and it's often hard to understand what Cedric is saying; a little work in post-production could have clarified his dialogue and allowed the zingers to land with more impact.
The plot, just like last time, involves a threat to the beloved neighborhood institution. An entrepreneur named Quentin Leroux (Harry Lennix) has purchased the property across the street and has erected a huge Nappy Cutz emporium, which, it is rumored, will even feature a basketball court. Calvin's could be doomed. And there's a larger issue, because the Chicago City Council, in the pockets of developers, seems bent on tearing down all the little neighborhood stores and moving in giant franchisers.