If you go to see Friday After Next based on the notion that Barbershop was a pleasant surprise, then you’re probably in for an unpleasant here. If, however, your idea of rib-tickling, knee-slapping fun involves an extended sequence with a character being led around by his genitals, which are clamped in a pair of vise-grips, then this is your movie. It isn’t mine.
I like Ice Cube. I think he has a pleasant screen persona, is innately likable and boasts the best set of fed-up facial expressions this side of Oliver Hardy. In fact, those expressions are the only reason this so-called holiday offering doesn’t get my lowest possible marks. At the same time, it’s hard not to feel that whatever quality Cube’s long-suffering looks afford, Friday After Next is cancelled out by the fact that he wrote this tasteless, tacky, witless mish-mash of a movie.
Never having seen the first two films in the series (I am told both are considerably better than this), I can’t compare Friday After Next to them. It really doesn’t matter. Nothing would change the fact that what we have here is a load of clams left in the broiling sun for a good three days.
I did see Cube and Epps teamed up in All About the Benjamins, and while that movie isn’t exactly art, the duo had a decent screen chemistry. But it’s not much in evidence here. By the end of the first reel, you wonder just exactly why Craig (Cube) didn’t cheerfully cut off Day-Day’s (Epps) head with a meat-axe ages ago. I’m guessing that Day-Day is supposed to be a lovable innocent, but as written, he’s neither. His unchecked libido (“It’s not your booty, it’s your beauty”) and constant barrage of four-letter words preclude that. He’s simply annoyingly stupid — and seemingly willfully so.
Craig isn’t the brightest Crayola in the 64-pack, either. When the cops — improbably named A. Hole and B. Dick — find a marijuana plant in the boys’ apartment, Craig tries to claim it’s “for municipal use only.” (Had anybody but Cube penned that line, they’d be accused of trying to create the next Amos ‘n’ Andy.) Even so, Craig seems to be somewhat grounded in a reality of which Day-Day is blissfully ignorant.
The plot — using the term loosely — has the two being burgled by a shoddy-looking Santa Claus in the early hours of Christmas Eve day. Not only has their holiday been ruined, but their rent money was hidden in one of the speakers the thief took. This lands them in bad with their landlady (Bebe Drake), who plans on subjecting them to her musclebound son, Damon (Terry Crews), an ex-con who developed a penchant for men during his tenure in the Big House. (The casual homophobia displayed by the movie is appalling.) Friday After Next briefly details Craig and Day-Day’s career as low-rent security guards before the movie shifts gears and turns into a haphazard depiction of a rent party, followed by a good deal of frenetic nonsense involving the larcenous Santa. It’s all more depressing than amusing. There’s the requisite amount of smutty innuendo, flatulence gags and “clever” ideas along the lines of stores named “Toyz N the Hood” and “Pimps and Ho’s.”
None of it really goes anywhere, and most of it is painfully unfunny. Very occasionally, there’s a bright moment — usually involving Craig’s reaction to Day-Day’s cosmic stupidity — but those are few and far between. It’s a little frightening to realize that one of the few solid laughs in the film concerns Craig’s much-abused grandmother, who has been on the receiving end of his father’s barbecue ad campaign (“Tastes so good you wanna slap your mama!”) for so long that she cowers in fear of being hit whenever anyone comes near her. Touches like that may be clever, but they help to give Friday After Next an off-putting tone of sheer meanness.
This is certainly not your standard Christmas fare, though it might just leave you wondering if the standard Christmas fare is all that bad.