A scene from 'Next Friday'
Courtesy Photo
**1/2 stars 93 minutes | Rated: R
Opened: Wednesday, January 12, 2000
Directed by Steve Carr

Starring Ice Cube, Mike Epps, John Witherspoon, Tamala Jones, Tommy "Tiny" Lister, Don Curry, Amy Hill, Kym E. Whitley


What will be lost to the small screen here is all the other laughing people in the theater. Definitely a funny-in-a-group, not-so-funny-alone-at-home comedy.

   VIDEO RELEASE: 06/06/2000


Homeboys in the 'burbs comedy 'Next Friday' a laugh a minute until the plot kicks in

By Rob Blackwelder

The problem with low-brow comedies is that at some point most of them have to stop being funny to resolve their plots.

This is certainly true of "Next Friday," Ice Cube's sequel to his 1995 sleeper hit about a strutting South Centralite who finally bests the neighborhood bully in a fisticuffs finale.

For its first hour, "Next Friday" is a seat-bouncing scream with a good, hard laugh almost every minute, as Craig (Ice Cube) is forced to flee to the suburbs when Debo the bully (stray-eyed Tommy "Tiny" Lister, Jr.) escapes from the pokey and comes looking for him.

Craig's father (John Witherspoon) packs him off to hide out with his Lotto-winning Uncle Elroy (Don "DC" Curry) in his luxe, new, subdivision, cul de sac home. But these 'burbs don't seem much safer than his own neighborhood, what with the gang of recently sprung, trouble-making vatos two doors down and his cousin's pregnant, psycho ex-girlfriend coming around, throwing bricks through car windows. What's worse, cousin Day-Day (Mike Epps) has turned into a woosy. He'd rather hide from the neighbors and the girl.

Ice Cube wrote the script for "Next Friday" (he co-wrote the original) and front-loaded it with laughs. The uncle's little old lady next door neighbor (Amy Hill) talks street smack and steals scenes dissing the pouty Day-Day. Craig's new aunt (Kym E. Whitley) -- think Jackee with a bad dye job -- spends the movie trying to get her tongue town her nephew's throat. The leader of the cul de sac's mini Latino gang wears his knit cap so low on his head it can't see. Just about everything is funny at first, even the old-fashioned gags he beats to death (smoking marijuana is the source of about a third of the comedy and dad's first-reel fall in dog do becomes a smelly running joke).

But the story itself nothing but a string of weak sitcom set-ups, sloppily introduced, like when a delivery boy shows up with a foreclosure notice on uncle's nice new digs. Solution: Steal money from the vatos.

Cube hardly uses one of the movie's best assets -- "Tiny" Lister -- who spends most of the movie riding hiding in the back of Criag's dad's truck waiting for his chance to get even. Plus his disdain for women, while not a central theme like it is in other genre losers like "Booty Call," really brings the movie down. Cube and first-time director Steve Carr don't have much use for females unless they're "bitches with big titties."

If "Next Friday" kept its comedy pace, it might have been easier to overlook such things -- the lack of story is forgivable while the guffaws keep coming. But the movie loses so much steam in the last 30 minutes -- busying itself with plot resolution -- that the laugh ratio slows to maybe one snicker per scene.

I admit I had a good time at "Next Friday." All I'm saying is, don't pay more than matinee price for the privilege.

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