Next Friday

as reviewed by Skylaire Alfvegren

In Friday, Craig Jones (Ice Cube) and Smokey (Chris Tucker), a couple of directionless ghetto boys wile away a Watts afternoon with an ill-gained bag of pot. A mad scramble to repay the dealer hurl the pair through treacherous South Central, complete with drive-bys, drug fiascoes and a climactic run-in with notorious neighborhood thug, Debo (Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister).

The sequel may take up where the original left off, but the two flicks are literally worlds apart. Four years later, word on the street is that Debo plans a jail break, and Craig is sent to lay low with his Lotto-lucky Uncle Elroy (Don “DC” Curry), his new Auntie Suga (Kim Whitley), and his wanna-be player cousin, Day-Day (Michael Epps), in the stucco tracts of Rancho Cucamonga. But Craig ain’t no fresh prince, and Cucamonga, although free of crackheads and ghetto birds, certainly wouldn’t pass for Bel Air.

Without the yap dog hijinx of Chris Tucker’s Smokey (who played scene-stealing reporter Ruby Rhod in the Fifth Element), Craig hangs with Day-Day, a blame-layin’, excuse-makin’ fool with nothing more to show for his share of lottery louey than a vindictive ex (played by Tamala Jones) and the Beemer she tortures with the help of her large-and-in-charge lil’ sis (Lady of Rage).

Lord knows even the ‘burbs aren’t safe with Ice Cube in the house. Trouble follows poor Craig, the one sensible cat in his family. But where Friday showcased the tribulations of South Central with a crazed sense of purpose, Next Friday wallows in black caricatures more the speed of Rudy Ray Moore than a firecracker like Ice Cube. Craig’s dad (played by John Witherspoon), still toiling away for animal control, plays out one groan-provoking dog poo joke though the entire movie, and Craig’s Uncle Elroy, dizzy on knock-off Versace and Viagra, spends too much time getting busy with his hoochie mama Suga to realize his crib is about to be auctioned off. Leave it to Ice Cube, a man of few words and limitlessly intense gazes, to scrape up the Benjamins.

But wait! Next Friday includes bonus vatos! With a single day to avert disaster, Craig stakes out his neighbors, a trio of drug-dealing Latino thugs, led by Joker (Jacob Vargas). As Cucamonga’s most loco homie, Vargas’ steals the show.

And what a long show. Next Friday is damn funny, thanks to the cast’s hilarious, if stereotypical, performances, but you’ll feel like you’re living Craig’s entire 24-hour adventure as director Steve Carr seems to not have left a single frame of Ice Cube’s script on the cutting room floor. (Like Spike Jonze, he graduated from music videos, but unlike Jonze, hasn’t learned what dramatic impact editing can have). But if you get as baked as those fools jibing during the opening credits, you’ll have a good ass time!

The League of Western Fortean Intermediatists

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