A refreshingly lighthearted look at day-to-day life in the inner city, Friday
does suffer from a few problems in the scripting and directing departments, but entertains nonetheless, thanks mainly to the easygoing style of its talented cast. The threadbare plot follows a day in the life of the recently fired (on his day off, no less) Craig Jones (Ice Cube), as he kills time with his best buddy Smokey (Tucker), who has landed in big trouble with the local drug pusher (a curly-haired ice cream vendor named “Big Worm”) for smoking up all the inventory. Facing a 10pm deadline to come up with $200 or face certain death at the hands of Big Worm's thugs, the boys spend their day trying to dig up the cash, taking time out to ogle some girls, rob a house, and stand up to the neighborhood bully. Rich in low-brow laughs, Friday's
most obvious strength is its energetic cast, led by rap superstar Ice Cube and stand-up comedian Chris Tucker. For my money, Ice Cube's turn in John Singleton's Higher Learning
was one of that picture's few saving graces and here he expands the keen sense of comic timing that he revealed in that earlier film. In a direct contrast to Cube's mellow cool is Tucker's ridiculously spastic performance as Smokey, apparently attempting to give new meaning to the term “over-the-top.” There are a number of memorable supporting performances, with one in particular -- John Witherspoon as Craig's dog-catching father -- stealing the show. (One scene with Mr. Jones on the toilet, explaining to his son the sadistic joy inherent in dog-catching, is a disgustingly hilarious highlight.) The downside? Well, F. Gary Gray's direction is painfully flat, and curiously -- especially for a popular music video director like Gray -- lacking any interesting visual style. Another drawback is the scattershot script by Ice Cube and fellow rap star D.J. Pooh, which runs out of ideas about halfway through and sets up a bizarre finale that suggests pegging a man in the head with a brick while his back is turned is, somehow, more honorable than shooting him. Despite its faults, Friday
is lively entertainment, full of personable actors and cheerfully served up with nary a trace of cynicism. It's not perfect, but it is fun. On a final note… while seemingly a fitting piece to set the mood, the video clip of Dr. Dre's “Keep Their Heads Ringin'” which is shown before the feature, turns out to be nothing more than a shameless soundtrack plug, with Chris Tucker's frantic voice plugging away with cries of: “If you think that was the bomb, go check out the soundtrack!” Do yourself a favor: Come late and miss the video. This kind of cheap promotion (especially for such a high-profile record that will almost assuredly do great business anyway) should be discouraged.