After Schlock

Ice Cube coasts through another middling comedy.

Friday After Next Directed by Marcus Raboy. Screenplay by Ice Cube. Starring Ice Cube, MIke Epps, and John Witherspoon.
Cube and Epps, not nearly acting their age.
Cube and Epps, not nearly acting their age.

The advantage to making a Christmas movie is that, no matter how mediocre your final product is, it's all but guaranteed to show up on at least one TV station, at least once a year, in perpetuity. Awful or not, however, it must be noted that the majority of holiday movies make the season look like a fairly white Christmas, which is why the idea of a seasonal movie set in snow-free, Caucasian-free South Central Los Angeles holds promise. Enter Friday After Next.

One nagging little detail about holiday movies, though: It helps if they're family-friendly. The Friday movies, while somewhat positive in their own way, aren't really for everyone, as they revolve around pot-smoking and delinquency, laced with copious amounts of profanity. Friday After Next is actually the least inflammatory of (God help us) the trilogy, undoubtedly maintaining an R rating in large part based on this country's fear of the green herb.

Chris Tucker left the series after part one and never looked back, leaving Cube's character Craig once again with Mike Epps's Day Day as a sidekick. Epps, who was the winner of an extended talent search to replace Tucker, wasn't all that funny in Next Friday, even less so alongside Cube again in All About the Benjamins, and isn't too funny here either. Cube is always best as a straight man, but he needs someone more organically wild to rile him up; the banter with Epps seems forced, like two friends who aren't really trying. Cube likes to discover new talent, and he should've gone to the well a third time rather than continue with Epps.

You want to know the plot? Good luck. It's not like there is much of one. There's a burglar going around dressed as Santa Claus, but he gets pushed to the back burner for much of the movie, as Craig and Day Day bumble around as strip-mall security guards while trying to avoid their landlady's ex-convict son Damon, an offensive caricature of a gay prison rapist.

At 33, Ice Cube seems a little long in the tooth to be playing a slacker living in his first apartment. Epps likewise looks like a father playing at being a kid. Perhaps age, and the sparse narrative, could be forgiven if the movie were a whole lot funnier.

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