Wednesday, January 12, 2000

Wasted hours

Movie: Next Friday

Posted on Wed, Jan 12, 2000 at 4:00 AM

**
Our Rating: 2.00

There's a queasy feeling one experiences early in the suburban comedy "Next Friday," when rookie director Steve Carr -- the creative force behind several invigorating hip-hop videos -- allows his camera to rest on a pile of dog excrement.

It's not that the image is particularly grotesque, although lovelier visions have certainly passed before moviegoers' eyes. The slight sickness results from the gut feeling that Carr's movie -- written, produced by and starring Ice Cube, the rapper and "Three Kings" costar -- is likely to rely almost entirely on sight gags and other bits of business that deal with a wide variety of bodily functions.

On that count, "Next Friday" doesn't disappoint. This mercifully brief glorified sitcom, a sequel of sorts to 1995's surprisingly successful "Friday," is everything the poop shot suggests and more.

A man (John Witherspoon) falls in said refuse, tries to figure out the source of the bad odor and simultaneously suffers a burrito-induced diarrhea attack, which is relieved only when he forces someone else to vacate a restroom. Much spraying of deodorant ensues, in a hapless effort to clear the air. Later, a used purple condom is found floating in a jacuzzi. An older swell and his younger, well-endowed girlfriend are caught romping in a bedroom that's packed with sex toys. Rich, comic stuff.

There's slapstick too, as burly ex-con Debo (Tommy "Tiny" Lister Jr.) regularly slaps around his smaller pal (Sticky Fingaz of rap group Onyx). Most of the jokes trade on tired stereotypes about African-Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans, Caucasians and fat people. And what could be funnier than watching nearly every major character sitting around and getting high? Why, a stoned attack dog, of course.

"Next Friday," which can be recommended only for its occasional doses of energy and cartoonish nature, also comes with a storyline of sorts. It's a fish-out-of-water tale that sees the young, quiet Craig (Cube) leaving his father (John Witherspoon) behind as he vacates South Central Los Angeles. Craig's arch rival, Debo, is about to be released from prison, so he makes haste for an extended residency with zany Uncle Elroy (Don "DC" Curry), his live-in sex kitten, Suga (Kym E. Whitley), and Craig's clueless cousin, Day-Day (Mike Epps). They're ensconced in a beautiful home in one of those generic subdivisions that are all too representative of upper-middle-class living across America. The relatives earned this place in the sun thanks to lottery winnings; the awards ceremony proved the literal death of Day-Day's mom.

The plot thickens when Craig meets beautiful neighbor Karla (Lisa Rodriguez) and her thuggish brothers, the apoplectic Joker (Jacob Vargas) and Little Joker (Lobo Sebastian). The new guy in town also gets acquainted with Day-Day's vengeful ex-girlfriend, D'Wana (Tamala Jones), and her physically imposing sister, Baby D (rapper Lady of Rage). Craig's new circle of friends extends to Roach (Justin Pierce), a hopelessly clumsy skateboarder who's given to body-slamming mishaps and who prescribes a toke or two for every occasion.

Roach's ideology may be the best to adopt when sitting through "Next Friday." Call it an unofficial recommendation, but an altered state on the part of a viewer is about the only way for this film to be considered the laugh riot of the year.

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