THERE'S SOMETHING a little scary about "Friday After Next," Ice Cube's follow-up to the successful comedies "Friday" and "Next Friday." It's the possibility of yet another movie called "Friday After That."
In the latest version, Craig Jones (Cube) and his good-for-nothing cousin Day-Day (Mike Epps) are robbed on Christmas Eve by some punk dressed as Santa. And they have until the end of this particular Friday to pay their rent or a big guy named Damon (Terry Crews), just back from jail (and all those sexual encounters that he apparently relished) will take care of them.
"Friday," the 1995 movie that started the whole thing, wallowed in the cesspool of sexist, bathroom and lowest-common-denominator humor. But it had some charming factors: the dynamic, for instance between Ice Cube's glowering straight man act as Jones and Chris Tucker's manic turn as his pothead pal, who kept getting both of them into trouble. The sequel was amusing, too, although comedian Epps replaced Tucker, as a new character, Craig's hopeless cousin.
But this time around, in which the musclebound Crews replaces Tiny Lister Jr. (as Craig's threatening bully), you might not want to thank God it's "Friday" quite so much. "Friday After Next" lacks the spirit of the previous two, and makes all those jokes about hos and even more unmentionable subjects seem like mere splashing around in the muck. Certainly Epps has his moments. And Cube's still the best thing about it. But their routines together seem forced -- hurriedly written maybe. And if you find any joy in seeing John Witherspoon's character suffer through more bouts of chronic colonic disaster, I envy your ease with laughter. And I bet you'll be there for "Saturday: The Morning After The Friday After That" or even "Thursday: The Prequel."
FRIDAY AFTER NEXT (R, 85 minutes) -- Contains all the bad stuff: obscenity, sexism, bathroom humor, sexual scenes, nudity and violence. Area theaters.