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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, November 22, 2002

'Friday After Next' is long on vulgarity, short on laughs

By Marshall Fine
The (Westchester, N.Y.) Journal News

FRIDAY AFTER NEXT (Rated R for profanity, sexual situations) One and One-Half Stars (Poor-to-Fair)

Two broke young men must come up with the rent on Christmas after being robbed by Santa Claus, in this urban comedy that's long on attitude but short on actual jokes. Starring Ice Cube, Mike Epps, John Witherspoon. Directed by Marcus Raboy. New Line Cinema, 85 minutes.

Say this about rapper-actor Ice Cube: He casts a wide net when it comes to making movies.

Earlier this year, Cube produced and starred in "Barber Shop," a film which, despite the controversy over a few iconoclastic jokes, was a heartfelt comedy about the importance of community.

Now here he comes with "Friday After Next," a vulgar comedy about the importance of, well, pimps and hos.

You can almost see them giving him an award for the first and taking it away for the second.

"Friday After Next," the third film in a series of ragtag comedies, is long on energy and short on real jokes, much like its 1999 predecessor, "Next Friday." Both films were spawned by the surprise success of 1995's "Friday," the first of these tales about an inner-city resident who has one day to straighten out some huge problem. That film did middling box-office business and went on to become a groundbreaking video hit.

But "Friday" had two things these sequels didn't: Chris Tucker, in his movie debut, and genuine laughs. When Tucker vaulted to success (and huge paychecks), Cube had to replace him with the leaden Mike Epps, who shows up again as the co-star of this film.

Once again, Cube is playing Craig Jones and Epps is his cousin Day-Day. They're sharing an apartment in South Central L.A. where, on Christmas Eve morning, their apartment is robbed by a burglar dressed as Santa — who makes off with their rent money as well as all their presents.

So Craig and Day-Day must earn the money in a single day — which happens to be their first day on the job as unarmed security guards at a strip mall. The mall happens to house a barbecue joint opened by their fathers: the crude Mr. Jones (John Witherspoon) and his self-important brother, Elroy (Don "DC" Curry), whose TV commercial features the slogan, "Tastes so good makes you want to slap ya momma."

Written by Cube and directed by first-timer Marcus Raboy (a music-video graduate), "Friday After Next" is a series of relatively unrelated gags about this little family of characters, most of whom can be counted on to follow their most venal impulses. But Cube's writing lacks the envelope-pushing imagination of the Farrelly or Wayans brothers, so while the humor is vulgar, it's rarely unpredictable enough to be truly funny.

I'll admit to having emitted a few laughs at "Friday After Next," but very few. Most of those are inspired by a running gag about a beefy enforcer named Damon (Terry Crews), whose time in prison has given him some strange appetites; and Money Mike (Katt Williams), a '70s throwback who runs an apparel store called Pimp N' Hos and may be the film's funniest creation.

Then there's the broad humor of Witherspoon. Did I say broad? His jokes should be wearing a sign that says, "Wide Load" — but he still brings them off.

Otherwise, "Friday After Next" will amuse anyone whose taste in humor runs to Cheech-&-Chong-style gags about pot-smoking and the crudest of bathroom wit. Which is probably a lot more people than you think.

Rated R for profanity, sexual situations.