The suburbs make the hood look good.
Life is inherently unfair. While I could wax philosophical on all the inequities of life, what has again proved this axiom is seeing Next Friday, the latest in the New Line Platinum series. When movies like The Princess Bride and F/X get tired old transfers and no extras from MGM, this movie, not worth seeing for free, gets the carte blanche New Line treatment. Life is unfair.
I wouldn't say this movie had no laughs. I thought the next-door neighbor, an elderly Korean lady who talked just like a gangsta rapper was funny. And the underlying theme that no problem can't be solved, or no animosity can't be resolved by smoking a fat joint had some humor in it. I may have chuckled once or twice in the movie outside of those moments. There were a lot more moments I could tell were supposed to be funny, but weren't. For a comedy, this is the death penalty.
This is the sequel to the comedy Friday, which I have not seen and perhaps would have helped if I had. I do know from the opening to the film and the information on the case that at the end of it, producer/screenwriter/lead actor Ice Cube had beat up a neighborhood bully named Debo (Tom "Tiny" Lister Jr., Jackie Brown, The Fifth Element, Judgment Day). Now in the sequel Debo is out for revenge after escaping from jail. Craig (Ice Cube) is now forced to move from South Central LA to live with his uncle in the suburbs until things cool down. Rancho Cucamonga is the subdivision that has taken the "hood" out of "neighborhood" and is home to people who managed to get out of the ghetto. Unfortunately Craig's uncle, who bought the house after winning the Lotto, seems to have spent the rest of his money on sex toys and weed, and doesn't have the money to pay his property taxes. So Craig has to come up with a way to get the tax money, fend off advances from his uncle's single-digit-tooth-count girlfriend, and not get killed by the drug dealers across the street. Oh yeah, and not get caught by Debo who is finding him by stowing away in his dad's dogcatcher truck.
Ice Cube was amiable enough in his role as Craig; and there was a somewhat promising subplot where he met this cute girl, but the subplot got left hanging and the other characters were just terrible. I'll talk about that, as well as the rest of the movie below.
As usual, New Line goes all out for their Platinum Series discs. The 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer is nearly flawless; in fact other than one shimmer and one or two artifacts within the whole film I could find no fault. Colors are stunning, the transfer looks clear as glass, and New Line does their typical extraordinary job. The soundtrack, in Dolby Digital 5.1 is fine, but not terribly dynamic. It has a fairly typical comedy soundtrack, with the surrounds being relegated to subtle ambiance and the musical score. Bass response is fine with plenty of thump in the hip-hop score. Dialogue is always clearly understood.
The extras always shine in New Line Platinum discs, and there are plenty of them here. Like the Detroit Rock City disc, the menus are a little convoluted, running on a theme of a realty advertisement for Rancho Cucamonga. It took me about 5 minutes to figure out how to navigate around them. But once I did, I discovered how much was packed onto this disc. You can watch the film with storyboards in the bottom right corner as the movie plays, in selected scenes. There is an 18-minute behind the scenes featurette that was more entertaining than the film. There is a commentary track with Ice Cube and first time director Steve Carr, talking less about what was on the scene than about being a first time director and the motivations behind making the film. The hardest part about the commentary track was forcing myself to watch the film again. There is more; a lot more. Cast and crew info, two trailers (one for general audiences, the other R rated), a blooper reel, an audition tape of Mike Epps (who played the exceedingly whiny cousin Day-Day), two music videos, three more trailers under the cast and crew info for Ice Cube, including The Players Club, Dangerous Ground, and Friday, and an alternate ending slightly different than the one chosen but which added nothing to the film. If you have a DVD-ROM drive there is more yet, including the ability to watch the film while looking at the script and watching storyboards.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Most of the talk about the film belongs in this section. As I said, almost all the characters in this movie were terrible. The acting was too over the top, the lines they had to say insipid and not funny, and the situations set up for gross-out comedy without anything to make it work. Craig's dad spends the whole movie covered in dog crap. This is comedy, folks. There was barely anything I found funny in the entire movie, and barely anything outside the comedy meant to tell a real story. The plot, such as it was, was very disjointed and episodic, which is all right so long as most of the episodes work. These didn't.
Apparently Chris Tucker (Friday, Rush Hour) got his start with the original Friday, but stayed away from the sequel. Perhaps he would have been able to save this movie, though I don't think so.
I have another observation; not so much of a complaint. In this film and the House Party movies I reviewed last week, we were given a hard R film because of numerous gross out jokes, tons of foul language, some violence, and lots of sex jokes and scantily clad women. Yet there is no nudity in any of these. Does this say anything about our society that those other things seem to be more "tasteful" and acceptable than a shot of a woman's breast? Some gratuitous nudity might have actually made more guys want to see this. And I've seen porno movies that are less obscene than this.
Again I have to cry out at the unfairness of it all. MGM is constantly pumping out movies we want to see, but unless it has James Bond in the title is a poor example of the format. New Line does great work with even films we never want to see. Somebody else see a dichotomy here?
As for the disc, I have only one complaint. I applaud New Line for trying new, innovative things in menu design, but sometimes less is more. I found the animated menus confusing and had difficulty finding out just what extra content there was to see. You are forced to go through these several screen changes to get to any particular extra. Hitting the enter key will take you to a static menu but the extras, except for the commentary track, are not on it. I see quite a few discs and if I had trouble finding the extras and deciphering the menus, then it is sure to be difficult for most casual viewers.
Rush right out to your video store and buy something besides Next Friday. Just so I don't hurt the studio I prize above perhaps any other, buy that disc from among the other fine entries in the New Line Platinum Series. You better have seen this film, like it, and think I have no idea what I'm talking about to buy this disc, in which case the great picture and sound and tons of extras would make this a worthwhile buy.
New Line is congratulated on fine work once again; I just wish the movie warranted it. The makers of Next Friday need to get with a good script and redeem their careers. Ice Cube seems like a capable actor but if this script is the best he can do, he better stick to rapping and acting.
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