Next Friday Reviews
Straight off the bat it is immediately clear that Next Friday isn't going to be as funny as its predecessor. Comedy sequels rarely are, and in the case of the originality offered be Friday (1995) the glory is absent. The instant clarity for this notion comes from the fact that a different director is present and Chris Tucker is absent even though he was the primary source of Friday's humour. For some reason his character Smokey is explained as being absent from the story due to going to rehab despite the fact that the final line he said in Friday signified that he'd never do such a thing. It becomes clear that the film was written very lazilyThe, and even though Ice Cube returns to write and star in Next Friday, the final product does little else than make viewers miss the original.
The story in Next Friday opens with a generic prison break plot dynamic used to bring antagonist Deebo back for the sequel, followed by a couple of lame gags that rely on dog poop or the viewer's nostalgia for the first Friday to make them laugh. Inherent reliance on a preceding film to carry a sequel rather than establishing a film which is good as a standalone picture is one of the major faults that kills most sequels, and Next Friday is no exception to the problem. Echoing too many memories of Friday's success without establishing its own, Next Friday is aimed not at its audiences' sense of humour but rather their wallets. Luckily enough the change of scenery and characters establish a film different enough not to spoil the legacy of its predecessor, being ultimately a very forgettable experience lest viewers remember it for precisely how poor it ends up being.
Next Friday offers the same level of narrative simplicity that was present in its predecessor, but it lacks all the subject matter that made the original great. Beneath the humour of Friday, there was valid social commentary on life in the hood and how to problems with fists instead of guns. Next Friday changes its setting from the hood to the suburbs and relies on the introduction of a bunch of new characters to provide the laughs even though Craig Jones is the only one viewers are gonna care about. He has to go through the same plot dynamics once again, involving a smoking weed, getting into fights and having to collect a large sum of money by a certain time. The entire time he is being stalked by Deebo who has come back for vengeance only to get immediately arrested after attempting to act on his intentions. The new characters in Next Friday aren't funny, and the returning ones from the superior predecessor are hardly used for proper purposes. Most notably, John Witherspoon's momentary sequences of father-son banter from Friday are replaced with a collection of senseless rants he goes into this time with no surrounding characters to listen to him and no audience members to laugh about it all. There are sporadic moments of comic energy somewhere amongst the gags, but it is really a challenge to actually seek them out and requires some level of dedication to do so. It's just a shame that there is so little inspiration in the material that viewers would be left uninspired to pay all that much attention to the predictable narrative, pretentious drama and distinctive lack of humour.
The soundtrack is alright, though it doesn't have the same feeling as Friday's did. But the fact that it features Ice Cube's N.W.A. reunion song Chin Check is great, particularly since it's one of my favourite Ice Cube songs.
And I can certify that Ice Cube's return to the role of Craig Jones is the most welcome asset of Next Friday. The poor script really limits the quality of comic interaction he can have with the surrounding cast which leaves the success of the film resting heavily on his shoulders. He it severly limited in how much support he can lend the film, but Ice Cube's comic charms are still entertaining. He has to adapt to a different role this time around and tie the story together, but he does it with enough of a balance between confidence and confusion to appeal to fans of his. He doesn't laze his way through the story, he makes an effort to help it seem genuine and delivers a convincing effort in the process. His natural charisma brings some occasional sparks to such a dreary feature.
Alas, there is little positive that can be said about the rest of the cast in Next Friday. Mike Epps plays little more than a repetitive narcissistic on an endless whining streak and Justin Pierce doesn't add anything funny as the one predominant Caucasian character in the story, but Jacob Vargas is the worst excuse for a cast member in Next Friday. In a film which relies so heavily on humour based on racial stereotypes, Jacob Hargas manages to prove the most annoying because he takes the Mexican archetype into overdrive with ridiculously over-the-top line delivery that begins annoying and just gets worse as the film goes on. He isn't the slightest bit intimidating and is even less funny, proving to be little more than a desperately pale imitation of every angry Mexican stereotype depicted in any form of visual media. Jacob Hargas is annoying at first and had me violently cringing every time he spoke, which hit its peak towards the end of the film where he goes into an endless soliloquy of depressing repetition.
Next Friday benefits from the genial presence of Ice Cube and his song Chin Check, but lacking the brilliant originality, gritty drama and support of Chris Tucker which made the original such a classic, Next Friday succumbs to its predetermined path as a failed sequel almost instantaneously before dragging on for feature length.