Next Friday

When the world loves a film so much that the masses clamor for a sequel, Hollywood is quick to oblige! This is also true even if no one was clamoring for a sequel, which was surely the case with “Friday,” a sleeper hit taking place in the ‘hood from a few years ago.

But now we have “Next Friday,” an embarrassingly unfunny drug comedy that makes Cheech & Chong’s drug comedies look funny by comparison. It seems that urban black fellow Craig (Ice Cube, who also scripted, though I use the term loosely) beat up a guy named Debo (Tommy “Tiny” Lester), who apparently had it coming and who in fact went to jail. He swore revenge on Craig, though, and now he and his stupid prison-pal Tyrone (Sticky Fingas), whose main purpose in the movie is to be hit on the head, have escaped from the L.A. County Jail. (They do this in broad daylight, by the way, still shackled together at the ankles.)

In order to protect his son, Craig’s dad (John Witherspoon), a dog-catcher who falls in dog poop at the beginning of the movie and does not clean it off his clothes until the end, sends Craig to live with his rich relatives in Rancho Cucamonga. But trouble seems to find Craig wherever he goes: He falls for Karla (Lisa Rodriguez), the gorgeous sister of a trio of Mexican gangsters who live in the same cul-de-sac as Craig’s uncle and cousin. One of these Mexicans, it should be noted, is later seen wearing nothing but a jock strap with a bow-tie on the front. Allegedly, this is funny.

I believe there is a plot somewhere in all this in which Craig and his cousin Day-Day (Mike Epps) believe the Mexicans to be in possession of a lot of drug money, and it seems like Day-Day is being harassed by a woman who claims he fathered her unborn child. But I couldn’t say for sure. What I recall most vividly is that the whole gang sits down to smoke pot with a frequency and lack of provocation usually reserved for sex scenes in porno movies. Hey, the mail’s here, let’s smoke pot. Hey, it’s a Friday, let’s smoke pot. Hey, I have some pot, let’s smoke pot.

There are a few chuckles in the movie. Day-Day’s impression of his ex-girlfriend’s fat sister is quite amusing (it sounds like she’s coughing when really she’s just breathing), and, um, there must have been something else, too. Can’t think of it now. All I remember is all the unfunny stuff, like the foul-mouthed Chinese neighbor and the weird sex toys Craig’s uncle has, and the way Craig’s uncle’s new wife keeps trying to mount Craig. (She’s played by Kym E. Whitley, though you’ll probably think it’s Jackee, and you might as well be right, I mean who cares, really?) Oh, and someone gives a dog a brownie laced with pot.

I’ll give the film this: Except for the drug use, it’s relatively harmless. The sexism, racism and rampant violence you usually find in movies about the ‘hood are not here; the filmmakers, while crude and foul-mouthed, at least don’t seem to have had any axes to grind or political statements to make. That doesn’t make the film enjoyable, but at least it keeps it out of the “harmful” category.

D (; R, abundant profanity, abundant drug use, brief.)