review by Cynthia Fuchs, 22 November 2002
"I look at myself and the movies I do as a brand,"
Ice Cube tells Variety. No doubt, he works hard for the
money. And even if it has been a while since folks rushed out to buy
the new Ice Cube CD, he's earned righteous respect -- as a member of
N.W.A., solo artist (AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted), actor (The
Glass Shield, Three Kings), and director (the flawed,
ambitious The Player's Club). Besides, it's hard not to like
Cube -- on screen, he always plays determined, thoughtful, and
sweet: you know, the nigga you love to hate.
But even Ice
Cube's general (and expanding) media savvy doesn't quite explain the
crashing popularity of the Friday movies, which appear to
have taken on a life of their own. Even if you grant the initial
appeal of John Witherspoon's bowel troubles, how to explain the
repeated, ongoing, even increasing appeal of same? Apparently, Cube
and co-creator D.J. Pooh tapped into some zeigeisty appeal to highly
desirable consumers, young, eager to spend their cash on popcorn and
nachos and soundtrack CDs.
Friday's apparently winning formula has governed the next two
films, with most all the elements remaining in place, save for the
fortuitous (for him) exit of Chris Tucker; after Smokey, he found a
more lucrative partnership with Jackie Chan. And so, Craig (Cube)
had to come up with a second second, his cousin Day-Day (Mike Epps).
It's good that Cube and Epps like each other's company so much, and
want to make movies together, but they do have a certain routine. As
Craig observes of his father, Willy (Witherspoon), and uncle Elroy
(Don D.C. Curry), they fight so much they might as well "get
Next takes place on the Friday before Christmas, and does its
best to turn all the goopy stuff of holiday flicks turned inside and
"hood-o-rific." (And we'll just say right off that the "ho, ho, ho"
joke is obvious and unfunny.) Craig and Day-Day are sleeping when a
raggedy Santa in orange sneakers comes to their apartment and steals
their presents, their food, and their rent money (this despite
Craig's valiant efforts to beat back the intruder, and Day-Day's
snoring through the whole escapade). The cops come by, do nothing,
and the morning begins: time to start the new job down at the mall.
Craig and Day-Day are rent-a-cops.
this premise might sound, in fact, the day at the mall follows the
routine that you've come to expect from these guys. First off,
they're desperate to make back the stolen rent money, as the
landlady, Miss Pearly (Bebe Drake) is ready to set her
fresh-out-of-prison son on them: "If I don't get my rent money
today, somebody gonna get they salad tossed tonight!" The son, Damon
(Terry Crews as Tiny Lister's stand-in), is large and hard and
actually not so interested in Craig and Day-Day; seems that, in
prison, he developed a hankering for small, fine-boned men. Lucky
for him (or not), Craig and Day-Day befriend just such a fellow, a
"half-Prince"-acting pimp called Money Mike (Katt Micah Williams)
who owns a clothing store in the mall called "Pimps and Hos
Fashions." He wears a shiny green suit and big old pimp hat, and has
a luscious girlfriend Donna (K.D. Aubert).
day, Craig and Day-Day do what they always do: complain about their
money situation, run from thugs, call each other names (Day-Day has
to ask Craig what "remedial" means). Craig tries to be upright and
flirt with the first pretty girl who walks by Money Mike's girl, as
it so happens), and Day-Day screws up, again and again. Too
enthusiastic about keeping order as a Top Flight Security Guard, he
tangles with church ladies singing carols in front of the liquor
store: no loitering. If this reminds you of Epps' interactions with
tourist ladies in All About the Benjamins, well, that seems
to be the point. Epps plays just-behind-the-beat as well as anyone.
director Marcus Raboy keeps the physical gags moving, with leaps and
falls and sprints and nasty sex insinuations every few minutes or
so. The slapstick is less choreographed than haphazard. At the
barbeque shop owned by Elroy and Willy -- lots of lip-smacking for
Willy -- Elroy plays reindeer with a bunch of freaky kids who ride
and kick at him; Willy is grumpy Santa; Willy's wife, whose only
name is "Mrs. Jones" (Anna Maria Horsford) is the infinitely patient
Mrs. Claus; and Elroy's new girlfriend Cookie (Sommore) is a busty,
mostly silent elfette.
razzing on Christmas conventions, underlined by the continued
thieving by that same Sketchy Santa (Rickey Smiley) who grabs
Craig's loot at the beginning, takes on the semblance of a theme
(and goodness knows that all that crass business is in need of
serious razzing). But the film is really about bodily, base humor --
abuse, humiliation, stupidity. This doesn't make it much different
from mainstream (white) popular media of the moment, from films (Jackass
and American Pie) to TV(Jackass and Tom Green,
The Bachelor, Blind Date, Fear Factor), where
humiliation passes for entertainment. Everyone's invited. People
audition for it.
After Next has a script and timing, and true, the series started
in 1995, before most of these other ingenious entries into the
field. And, in fact, Friday After Next is one of the milder
incarnations of the trend. The question is broad: what's at stake in
such buffoonery? Who pays and in what ways? The raging success of
the concept -- laughing at ineptitude and cruelty, cartoonish pain
and inanity -- is increasingly disconcerting. It's hardly confined a
single demographic, consumers or producers. It's pervasive,
predictable, and eventually, perhaps, potent.
Don D.C Curry
Anna Maria Horsford
R - Restricted.
Under 17 requires
parent or adult guardian.