Next Friday

Next Friday (1999)
New Line Home Entertainment
Cast: Ice Cube, John Witherspoon, Mike Epps, Kym E. Whitley, Lisa Rodriguez
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurette, Blooper Reel, Alterante Ending, Storyboards, Music Videos and much more

In 1995 the urban comedy "Friday" was one of the overlooked sleeper hits at the box office and eventually hit it big with audiences after its release on video and DVD. Hilarious, unexpected and hysterically funny, the movie was a vehicle designed by Ice Cube for Ice Cube, but as an interesting side effect, Chris Tucker actually took away most of the acclaim for his incredible part as Smokey in the film. Now, Ice Cube is back, with a sequel to his 1995 original. In a film called "Next Friday" showing us that even more things can go down between Thursday and Saturday, and given New Line Home Video’s special Platinum Edition treatment of the title, I decided to check out this release.

Ice Cube returns as Craig Jones, and this time his dad smuggles him out of the hood right into the clean suburbs to stay with his uncle Elroy. The reason is that Deebo (Tiny Lister Jr.) has broken out of prison and seeks revenge for what Craig did to him last Friday. With his cousin Day-Day (Mike Epps) Craig spends time in the burbs, living though his sex-crazed uncle’s escapades and his cousin’s affected ex-girlfriend, as well as some gun-toting guys weirdoes next door. But then Craig discovers that his uncle is about to lost the house because his behind with the payment of his property taxes. Somehow he has save the house from being auctioned off while also taking care of Deebo who is slowly closing in on Craig’s new home.

While "Next Friday" is a funny movie, it just isn’t as hilarious as the original "Friday." Without Chris Tucker’s manic non-stop facial expressions and precisely timed line delivery, we’re left with Ice Cube, who, nice guy and all, just isn’t that funny. Mike Epps tries to fill in Tucker’s shoes as sidekick but lacks the manic nature, though Kym E. Whitley and Clifton Powell turn in some very funny moments as Chris’ Aunt and the record shop owner where Day-Day works, respectively.

The picture quality presented on this DVD is visibly above average, and there are virtually no imperfections in the transfer. The colors are crisp and well-presented, and the film is properly framed at a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, featuring a highly detailed <$16x9,anamorphic> <$PS,widescreen> format. While the transfers of the trailers from the earlier films suffer from a few blemishes, "Next Friday" itself looks like a dream. With deep solid blacks and balanced highlights, the film looks absolutely natural throughout. Fleshtones are faithfully rendered, and the level of detail, especially in the shadows is truly impressive. Edges in the transfer are clear and sharp, but without visible edge-enhancement which could have caused an artificially sharpened look. Instead, "Next Friday" looks crisp and detailed yet at the same time always very natural. The compression on this DVD is without flaws and you will search in vain for any signs of digital compression artifacts.

The sound quality, presented in a <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> audio track, as well as an alternative 2.Dolby Stereo surround track, has obviously been cared for as well. New Line regularly remixes its audio tracks for home theater use, making sure these tracks work perfectly within near-field listening environments, and it is once again obvious here, how much difference this procedure can make. Punchy and extremely clean, the music of the film comes off as very crisp and clear without any signs of distortion. The sound filed is wide and immersive with a great bass extension. The dialogues are well integrated and never drowned out by the powerful music or the sound effects.

"Next Friday" also features an audio <$commentary,commentary track> by Ice Cube and the film’s director Steve Carr. The track is interesting and well-produced. "Reel Time" storyboards are another great additional feature found on the disc. It gives you the chance to take a look at the original storyboards that were created for the movie, while watching the film. It shows nicely how things evolve and change as a film goes through its production cycle. Together with the 17-minute behind-the-scenes featurette and the movie’s alternate ending, you will also get some additional glimpse into the actual production of the movie and the filmmakers’ motivations. A 10-minute segment with the original audition tape of Mike Epps can also be found on the disc, making for a very funny addition, which is only surpassed in its hilarity by a gag reel with a number of incredible bloopers.

To round off this Platinum Edition release from New Line Home Video two music videos, Ice Cube’s "You Can Do It" and Lil’ Zane’s "Money Stretch," can also be found on the release. Although presented in regular stereo, the clarity of the audio on these videos is quite impressive, so check them out.

Once again, New Line Home Video is delivering a jam-packed DVD with "Next Friday." In fact the studio is constantly trying different routes with their releases, trying to keep them fresh and off a formula, which is always refreshing, although I have to admit that the menu system on "Next Friday" could be considered a little overdone. While the presentation is nice, the functionality and the clarity of the system suffers from the "Rancho Cucamonga Promotion Tape" theme that has been used and makes navigating around the disc’s content a little tedious and overly laborious. Additional navigation elements, such as the fast forward button and other VCR-like controls, that are rather unintuitive to figure out just add to the confusion and eventually lead to the viewer ending up in parts of the menu that he never wished to access. However, New Line has to be commended on their openness to explore such original presentation, which by itself should be an inspiration to other publishers.

"Next Friday" is an enjoyable film in the vein of the original movie. In all honesty however, I found it could not really live up to the original "Friday" movie and to the presentation it has been given on this DVD. However for fans of Ice Cube and the original movie who want some more of the hilarious action, "Next Friday" offers enough laughs and entertainment to make this disc worth a look. So what’s the title for the sequel to this film? "The Friday After?"