“Barbershop: The Next Cut” — the third film in the franchise — tries a little too hard to be more than it is, and that’s OK, especially if it gets moviegoers motivated to effect change. On the surface, the film is a broad ensemble comedy featuring the quick-witted banter and sophomoric humor that made the first movie so memorable. But it also takes a serious turn to wrestle with issues of race, class and gang violence, specifically on the streets of Southside Chicago, where Calvin’s Barbershop is located.

The film opens with a burst of headlines and news clips about the ubiquitous gang violence plaguing the Windy City. Cut to the barbershop where straight-laced Calvin (Ice Cube) and cantankerous Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer) trade insults and get ready for the day. It’s business as usual as the rest of the crew, Terry (rapper-actress Eve), Angie (Regina Hall), Jennifer (Jazsmin Lewis) and newcomers One-Stop (JB Smoove), Rashad (Common), Draya (Nicki Minaj), Raga (Utkarsh Ambudkar) and Jerrod (Lamorne Morris), walk in the door.

The first half of the movie is especially fun when each character who enters sparks a deluge of one-liners, battle-of-the-sexes banter or pop-culture barbs about Kanye, the Kardashians and R. Kelly. From big booties to Obama to Lupita Nyong’o to fake weaves, no topic is off limits.

Director Malcom D. Lee keeps things moving at a (mostly) lively clip and gives the Southside neighborhood a glossy sheen. The laughs come fast and furious — until they don’t.

Things get dull whenever we leave the shop. In spots, the movie ditches the quick-witted banter for labored attempts to create tension. This part of the script — from Kenya Barris and Tracy Oliver — feels like a cheesy After-School Special about gangs and violence. But it does bring out Cube’s famous snarl when he discovers his high school-age son is a wannabe thug. In an effort to quell the violence, Calvin declares a 48-hour truce and hangs free haircuts and styles as catnip. The barbershop, which is now half beauty parlor, serves as a sanctuary. The filmmakers attempt is earnest but the two sides of the script never meld.

Besides Calvin’s parenting problems, other side plots include a flirtation between Rashad and Daya, Calvin’s secret efforts to move the shop, and J.D.’s (Anthony Anderson from “Blackish”) shady new business venture, a food truck called Gangsta Grub. The movie won’t end until every last string is neatly tied, adding to the tedium and predictability.

The message of peace and tolerance is loud and clear, but all you really want is more of Eddie’s non-PC comments about Bill Cosby.

— Dana Barbuto may be reached at dbarbuto@ledger.com or follow her on Twitter @dbarbuto_Ledger.

“Barbershop: The Next Cut”
Cast: Ice Cube, Eve, Common, Nicki Minaj, Cedric the Entertainer, Regina Hall, Lamorne Morris.
(PG-13 for sexual material and language.)
Grade: B-