'Next Friday': Take the day off

January 13, 2000|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN STAFF

Is there anything funny about "Next Friday," the sequel to 1995's surprise hit "Friday?"

Well there is this dog who gets stoned and a staredown between a record-store owner and star Ice Cube.

But the funniest thing "Next Friday," which brings Cube back as a guy from the 'hood who has all sorts of adventures, is that hundreds of thousands of people will pay good money to see a film that starts with a guy falling on dog excrement and manages to maintain that level of humor throughout.

Much like that unfortunate character, who somehow never finds the time to change his pants, this movie stinks. It's got maybe four honest laughs, a lot of mugging that masquerades for humor and a roster of actors desperate to get their paychecks and move quickly onto the next project.

Cube, writer and star for both "Friday" flicks, returns as Craig Jones, who spent the first film helping rid his neighborhood of the evil (and hulking) Debo. "Next Friday" begins with Debo's escape from prison - - no one in Los Angeles looks twice, apparently, at two guys in prison garb shackled together at the ankles - - and pledge to exact revenge on Craig.

Fearing for his son's safety, Craig's father (John Witherspoon, funny as a case of the flu) sends him to the suburbs and his Uncle Elroy (Don "DC" Curry), who made his fortune by hitting the Lotto and has studiously avoided work ever since.

The adventures come when Craig and his cousin, Day-Day (Mike Epps, struggling gamely to make something of his film debut), discover Uncle Elroy no longer has enough money to pay the tax bill. Their only hope is to steal it from the vicious Latino drug dealers living next door.

Meanwhile, Papa Jones, tricked by Debo into revealing his son's whereabouts, is making for the 'burbs, anxious to save the day.

While "Next Friday" doesn't offer much in the way of laughs, it does provide food for thought. For instance, will Ice Cube's easygoing screen presence survive junk like this? Was Chris Tucker so good in the original "Friday" that his absence alone explains why the sequel is so bad? If John Witherspoon is among the funniest men in America, as many of his fellow comics say, why is he so painful to watch here?

But perhaps the most pressing question belongs to audience members: Isn't there someplace else I could be?

'Next Friday'

Starring Ice Cube, John Witherspoon and Mike Epps

Directed by Steve Carr

Released by New Line Cinema

Rated R (strong language, drug use and sexual content)

Running time 95 minutes

Sun score *

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