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It is Friday and Craig Jones (Ice Cube) is unemployed, having, yesterday, been fired. He is lounging around his house with his friend Smokey (Chris Tucker), a rather incompetent weed dealer. Smokey's problem is that he tends to smoke, rather than sell, his product. This has lead to trouble with Smokey's supplier, Big Worm, who now wants his money, or his product back, or Smokey is a dead man. Then there's Deebo, the local bully, plus Craig's jealous, psychotic girlfriend, Joi, and Debbie, the neighbour Craig has a crush on. A lot can happen while lounging around your house on a Friday. Written by
(Re-review in 2015): It's interesting to see how this has been labeled the first "Hood" comedy. I'm sure there have been others - though written by, of all people, Joel Schumacher, I've always thought of 1976's Car Wash as the grand-daddy of them. It's also become a benchmark for stoners; for the 20th anniversary, it was screened for a special event on 4/20. Sadly, I couldn't attend full of the green stuff, but it was still an enjoyable experience seeing it again. Not great, but good.
For all of the comparisons to it being Boyz N tha Hood as a crude comedy, that it is in part. But it's also like the Watts equivalent of something closer Clerks, also by first-time filmmakers: it's mostly about two guys who don't have much going on with their lives or prospects or action, but they're surrounded by so many 'lively' personalities and moments that are meant to get BIG laughs, regardless of a story structure that is super-strong outside of the Day-In-The-Life thing. And both borrow of course from Do the Right Thing, though Cube actually goes for his own version of the violent climax with a fight. The lack of any cops shows this is a fairly insulated world. Works for me.
If it doesn't really have the same existential heft as Clerks, well, it's not fully trying to be that anyway. What we get here also, of course, is the breakthrough for Chris Tucker - an opportunity he'd only really pursue for another few years before spending his life, it appears, on Rush Hour checks (and a surprise guest spot in Silver Linings Playbook, of all things). His work here is still electrifying and high-charged, though maybe this time I saw more of the obvious "tics" of the character (like, we get it, the Angel Dust bit is one of the major highlights of the movie, but can't you move on?) And Cube is good as straight man for Tucker's foole, and has a few moments too.
This is one of those movies I watched a LOT 'back in the day' as one might say. It's really a movie, despite being rated R, for 13 year olds, black or white, and seeing it at 13 made as big an impression as seeing Clerks or Pulp Fiction or whatever. At the time I thought it was that good on the level. But some things do last better than others, and the seams in Friday show much more over time. Some bits don't work - the crackhead (?) hustler is hit or miss, mostly great in the "HEY, SMOKY BACk HERE TAKING A S***!" bit - though Tony Lister, DEEBO of course in capital letters, is still amazing. And I found myself laughing often through the film, in part due to things still working, like anything with Bernie Mac (and Tony Cox!), and sometimes just nostalgia. It surprised me just how much I remembered in terms of dialog - if only I remembered everything from school like this, I'd be probably a smarter man today... oh well.
Bottom line, enough of it holds up to recommend as a fun comedy, but the effect of 20 years of stoner/hood/black comedies have diluted some of its effectiveness; any time Craig narrated, or that quick montage of 'things that happened today' right before the fight, drag the movie down. And why do they go OUTSIDE knowing that the drive-by is going to happen? That they might shoot the houses whether or not they're there? Doesn't make sense.
Maybe I'm putting too much thought into it here. But, for what it was, and is, it's fun, dirty stuff.
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