Rather like a cross between “Up in Smoke” and an episode of “The Jeffersons, “”Friday” is a crudely made, sometimes funny bit of porchfront humor from the ‘hood. Mix of sassy attitude, over-the-top mugging, timeworn cliches, stereotypical characters, stupid jokes and a dash of social reality more often proves embarrassing than amusing, even if the result is not as relentlessly dumb as a number of other recent pix. Target audience of young blacks should respond favorably on sheer recognition factor of many of the film’s conceits, although crossover and foreign potential would appear limited.This is the sort of broad, caricatured send-up of stock neighborhood types that would be considered highly questionable if presented by whites but, coming from the pens of writer-exec pro-“Destiny Turns On the Radio”
ducer-star Ice Cube and his longtime partner DJ Pooh, will no doubt pass without comment.
The South Central L.A. community on view here centers around lazybones Craig (Ice Cube) who, instead of heading out in search of a job, spends the day hanging out with his fast-talking, bud-smoking buddy Smokey (Chris Tucker). Craig’s working stiff dad (John Witherspoon) takes a dump while admonishing his slacker son to hit the pavement, and Craig’s girlfriend Joi (Paula Jai Parker) is a braying banshee viciously suspicious of any other woman who might come within Craig’s range, especially the foxy Debbie (Nia Long).
As Craig and Smokey mostly sit in front of the former’s house worrying about how they’re going to repay mean dope dealer (and ice cream vendor) Big Worm for the weed Smokey meant to sell but instead has smoked, an entire world comes to their doorstep: There’s evil-eyed hulk Deebo (Tiny “Zeus” Lister Jr.), who thinks nothing of stealing bicycles, slapping women around and threatening everyone he sees; the block’s reigning sexpot, who’s married to a midget and makes time with the cheatin’ local pastor; a homeless hustler as aggressive as a sheepdog; and some Latino drug dealers.
What laughs there are mostly come from the reefer-puffing comedian Tucker, a lanky, rubber-faced, hyperactive near-hysteric whose character always has an outrageous rationalization for his irresponsible behavior and, in his comic devotion to leafy highs, reps a throwback to the druggy humor of the ’70s. Most of his schtick may be silly, but his adeptness at antic clowning is undeniable and keeps things lively even when the material is so uninspired.
Ice Cube functions — for the most part — as Tucker’s straight man, and his slow-on-the-uptake line readings and physical inertness drag things down. Intended skinny guy/big man comedy teaming — a la Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, Carney and Gleason — ends up a one-way street where yocks are concerned.
Melodrama makes an appearance two-thirds of the way through, as Big Worm sends some drive-by shooters over to deal with his debtors once and for all, although true climax arrives later with an unlikely nocturnal brawl between Craig and the giant Deebo.
Overall tone aims for the sweet and even innocent, although scatological humor is pervasive enough to warrant the R rating. Working under obvious budget constraints largely on one L.A. city block, first-time helmer F. Gary Gray, who has long collaborated with Ice Cube on musicvideos, has come up with very rudimentary visuals and, on the basis of all the hamming and grandstanding on view, seems to have adopted the policy of giving the cast an utterly free hand. Sophisticated it’s not.
Wallpaper soundtrack consists mostly of snippets from 24 tunes ranging from rap to soul to funk.