Titles include: Friday, Next Friday, Friday After Next, All About The Benjamins
Friday is the rarest specimen of African American cinema: a ''hood movie refreshingly free of the semiseriousness and moralism of shoot ''em up soaps such as
Boyz N the Hood, yet still true to the inner-city experience. Scripted by rapper Ice Cube,
Friday is a no-frills tale of a typical day in the life of a pair of African American youth in South Central. Cube plays Craig, a frustrated teen who endures the ultimate humiliation: getting fired on his day off. Then unknown Chris Tucker plays Smokey, a marijuana-worshipping homeboy whose love for the green stuff lands him in predicament after predicament. Sitting on the stoop of Craig''s rundown home, the two hilariously confront a kaleidoscopic array of gangbangers, weed dealers, crack heads, prostitutes, scheming girlfriends, and neighborhood bullies--all of whom, it should be noted, come off as sympathetic even as they are being caricatured, a true achievement in the crass, "booty call" environment of ''90s African American comedy.
Ice Cube wrote and stars as Craig in this sequel to
Friday, which he also wrote. His nemesis from that film, neighborhood bully Debo (Tommy "Tiny" Lister Jr.), has just escaped from county jail and is out to get revenge. To protect Craig, Craig''s father (John Witherspoon) sends his son to stay with his Uncle Elroy (Don "DC" Curry), who won the lottery and bought a house in Rancho Cucamonga. Craig expects the suburbs to be dull, but no sooner has he arrived than conflicts arise: The neighbors are hostile hoods, his cousin''s girlfriend is out for blood and child support, and the house is about to be seized because of unpaid taxes. It''s up to Craig and his cousin Day-Day (Mike Epps) to solve these problems before the day is over. It''s a rambling, loose movie, but a genuinely entertaining one. Ice Cube doesn''t write punch lines--though funny lines abound. He writes richly comic characters that speak in virtual arias of bragging, complaining, and scamming. Sure, some of the characters are stereotypes and many of the jokes are about drugs and scatology--but that''s been the basis of humor since Plautus and Molière. The rhythmic energy of Ice Cube''s dialogue and the easy charisma of his performance make
Next Friday thoroughly enjoyable.
Friday After Next
Ice Cube (
Barbershop) uses his relaxed, raffish charm to glide through the third movie in his
Friday series. As Craig (Cube) and Day-Day (Mike Epps) sleep in the wee hours of Christmas Eve, a burglar dressed like Santa Claus breaks in and steals their presents and rent. Thus begins a classically bad day full of unsympathetic family members, obnoxious neighbors, squealing pimps, pot smoking, and sexy babes. No one''s going to win any awards for this sloppy installment, loaded with preening stereotypes and half-hearted low humor; Cube generally plays straight man and lets the rest of the cast screech, yowl, and contort their faces, their performances as ornate and ritualized as a Japanese Noh play. But if you''re a fan,
Friday After Next will give you a modest dose of Cube''s goofy humor. John Witherspoon and Don "D.C." Curry return as Craig''s eternally disgruntled father and uncle.
All About the Benjamins
Ice Cube cowrote, produced, and stars in this action caper. Bucum (Cube) is a bounty hunter (get it?) with dreams of big money. Reggie (Mike Epps) is a small-time grifter who also has dreams of big money and is at the top of Bucum''s list to boot. Yep, you guessed it: tough guy/funny guy buddy flick.
All About the Benjamins is pretty much a by-the-numbers piece of work. There''s plenty of macho posturing, gunfire, big-ticket items exploding, and curse words inserted into the script in lieu of actual punch lines. The plot has holes big enough to drive a locomotive through, but then again the plot isn''t really the point. Epps''s attempts at wacky comedy wear thin early on, but Ice Cube does a fine job, and together they do make quite a few moments hit. Best recommended for when you want turn-your-brain-off excitement.