Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle Next Friday

By Sarah Hepola

JANUARY 24, 2000: 

D: Steve Carr; with Ice Cube, John Witherspoon, Tamala Jones, Tom "Tiny" Lister, Mike Epps, Justin Pierce. (R, 93 min.)

Ladies and gentlemen: the No. 1 movie in America? Five years after the release of Friday, rapper Ice Cube's comedy about pot and potty humor in South Central, the film has become a slow-burn video favorite with teens and adult audiences who delight in its over-the-top crudity, its front-porch observations, and its action-packed (but never lethal!) capers. In this sequel (which the rapper co-wrote, co-produced, and stars in), Cube returns as Craig, still unemployed, still unmotivated, still irresistible to the ladies. After Craig catches wind that his mighty nemesis Deepo (Lister, reprising his role from the original) has escaped jail and is cracking his knuckles for revenge, Craig is ushered to the suburban home of his uncle, who fled the ghetto after his million-dollar lotto win. With its tagline ­ "the suburbs make the hood look good" ­ one might expect Cube to poke a little fun at the area's homogeneity, false sunniness, or nosy busybodies. Instead, he and writing collaborator DJ Pooh seem more interested in filling up time in front of the camera with what I suspect is the primary thing that occurred behind it: smoking blunts, joints, bowls, and ­ when desperate ­ the occasional brownie. And with such artistic inspiration as their guide, they create a story disappointingly similar to the original. Assault rifles are wielded, drug lords run amok, spurned girlfriends throw bricks through car windshields, buttered-up sex mamas proposition men (Cube, always Cube) ­ and still, no police to be found. What suburbs are these? And barring even this peculiar negligence, the film is still populated with sitcom clichés and misogynistic toss-offs, with the actors using "bitch" and "ho" as if they were ellipses. Cube's years as NWA's lead writer and his subsequent solo career displayed a fierce, uncompromising talent, but Cube's efforts to write for film have seemed downright toothless in comparison. In Next Friday, even his performance lacks the charisma and intensity we've come to expect from him in films like Boyz N the Hood and Three Kings. Beside the cast, who flounder and scream each line as if it were the season finale of Amen!, Craig's skittish cousin Day-Day (Epps) comes off like the comic veteran, since he possesses a restraint and timing everyone else so sorely lacks. In the end, the only things the film seems to truly, delightfully revel in ­ that it just can't seem to get enough of ­ is the transcendent beauty of getting stoned and the wonder of the human fart, which comes in all shapes and sizes. Ladies and gentlemen: the No. 1 movie in America.

1.5 Stars

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