Like Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King, Barbershop 2 opens with the creation story of its most memorable character. In an amusing flashback set in the '60s, Cedric The Entertainer flees the cops by ducking into a barbershop run by Ice Cube's father, where he finds not only safe haven, but also his professional and personal niche. After stealing scenes in the original Barbershop and drawing Jesse Jackson's ire with his character's raunchy revisionist take on black history, Cedric The Entertainer scores considerably more screen time this time out, but like just about every other facet of Barbershop 2, Cedric's shtick suffers from the law of diminishing returns. Bigger without being better, the film focuses on yet another external threat to Cube's community-friendly barbershop–not from an oily hustler this time, but from the forces of gentrification. His plucky family business faces fierce competition from a glitzy chain outlet run by Harry J. Lennix, who aspires to do for urban hair what Starbucks has done for coffee. A winning sleeper, Barbershop was at its weakest when attending to its half-hearted plot, and at its strongest when soaking up the relaxed, improvisational give-and-take of its affectionately drawn characters. Barbershop 2 plays against the original's strengths by piling on the subplots and stiff dramatic moments and giving short shrift to the conversational vibe that made the original so endearing. Good Burger's Kenan Thompson and guest star Queen Latifah join the cast as a bumbling aspiring barber and an outspoken female version of Cedric, respectively, but neither makes much of an impression, particularly with Cedric already on hand to run his act into the ground. Barbershop 2 is still intermittently funny, and at times even affecting, but its drama veers into soap-opera territory, and its comedy too often reeks of sitcom laziness.