I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Friday After Next

I really don’t have much to say about this movie, so instead I will rail against our modern consumerist society. thanks for your understanding.

I really feel old when I show up to a movie 10 or 15 minutes early. Sure I like to think I’m young in the heart and all that shit, but I still remember when moviegoing was a pleasant experience. Sure I am thankful for the innovations of digital sound and automatic ticket machines. But it’s time to dump the rest of the cineplex baggage. These chains are all going chapter 11 anyway, why not jettison the extra weight?

So I walk in there, the old man, and I let this CD pretending to be a radio station introduce me to the latest contemporary R&B products. I’m pretty sure they have a camp somewhere where they raise these kids to groom them into soul-less, personality-less test tube warblers with prefabricated sexuality. They keep them naked in cages until the cameras are ready, then they throw each of them a plastic bag containing 1 (one) wireless microphone headset (does not work), 1 (one) pair white leather pants (low riding), one (1) $200 boutique t-shirt (one sleeve only), and 1 (one) rhinestone cowboy hat.

Friday After NextThen they throw them in the studio with whichever mainstream hip hop producer has had the most #1 hits in this particular business quarter, spend 2 months of postproduction overdubbing and electronically altering their vocal tracks, and voila! Suddenly the little curly haired kid from In Sink has a song that exactly mimicks Michael Jackson. As soon as advertising, promotions, assistant promotions, corporate advertising, press relations and the payola department go over it, the single is ready. Quick, get this to the Cinematron Radio Network Popcorn Jam! We want Vern to have to listen to this garbage while he waits to see FRIDAY AFTER NEXT!

Sitting waiting for a movie, there used to be some kind of atmosphere there. They would play classical music, if anything. I’m not a big classical music fan but it makes for good atmosphere, it makes you feel like you’re in a semi-classy establishment, with some sense of culture or at least a desire to let you relax. Not anymore. Now you have to get banged on the head with the Clockwork Orange assault. Coca-Cola rapes you in the eyes with their trivia questions (impossible to be stumped by, just so nobody feels left out) while the R&B gets you in the ear. Available now at Sam Goody. It’s not just that this music is absolutely horrible and that I don’t want to have to stop watching movies in order to avoid listening to it. It’s also that I have to sit there and think about American culture’s position, hanging from a cliff with a hook in its ass, being stretched deeper and deeper into the abyss, forever.

I mean I’m sitting there thinking about little Michael Jackson when he was in the Jackson 5. So charismatic and talented, so they turned him into a water skiing squirrel. Come see the waterskiing squirrel, the dancing monkey, the BMX bear. Hear him sing about relationships, even though he’s 9. He got older and he became such a superstar and he was starting to seem pretty weird but man that motherfucker could dance and he was still doing good music even if it wasn’t as good as “Off the Wall” was. So he was treated like royalty and women thought he was a “fox” and wanted to have sex with him even though he looked increasingly feminine and was always riding on a giraffe or holding a monkey or some weird shit. But as his music started to slide out of the public consciousness, as his perfectionism and fear got him spending years and millions on one mediocre album, as he got increasingly weirder and more mysterious and sinister, the press and the people got crueler. And now he’s walking around in a man-made albino alien face, watching us through Diana Ross’s eyes, wearing a black velvet surgical mask that protects his delicate mouth and his tiny nose with its little piece of hip bone protruding through the tip. I never thought I’d see the headline “Pop star dangles baby from balcony.”

I mean look, this guy is still incredibly talented, and he’s one of the only entertainers out there with a straight face talking about healing the world. But in exchange the world has left him an insane, baby dangling, dessicated alien corpse, and replaced him with some average kid with a funny hat and a bunch of computers. And we still wonder why he tried to buy the Elephant Man’s bones.

Well I was probaly the only one in that theater worrying about Michael Jackson but I wasn’t the only one sick of listening to this god damn music. Every time a new song started I heard my fellow old men beside and behind me let out loud, anguished sighs. And then the real advertising began.

There was the Coca-Cola “refreshing film.” Then the cell phone company reminding you to be polite, but still be an asshole with a cell phone. (Sorry about the brain cancer.) Then there was the obnoxious web sight trying to convince you, through the medium of bad comedy, that it is actually really difficult to get a ticket to a movie unless you pay extra to buy it online. (How do they expect this ad to work when everyone in the theater, by definition, was able to get into the movie? Well, by showing it before every single movie you ever see for the rest of your life. Maybe eventually you’ll give in and accept their logic.) Then those lovable characters from MEN IN BLACK PART 2: MIB 2 come on to mention Sony, Loews, enjoythemovie.com, MEN IN BLACK 2 on dvd, and to say, “Sit back, relax, and enjoy this exclusive Men in Black 2 show!” Which turns out to mean about 15 seconds of outtakes where they forget their line and then start laughing. And that was followed up by another ad, this one for Volvo, explaining that they finally gave in and made an SUV.

More ads, more anguished sighs.

Then a trailer for some cartoon starts up. Finally, a trailer. But halfway through the narrator lets you know that also you can get a special Sony-Loews Coca-Cola KFC Taco Bell Gift Meal Super Pack of popcorn, soft drink and Viacom Nickelodeon movie ticket, all you have to do is get a receipt and go onto this web sight, to play some fun exclusive trivia games or some shit… long story short, this is not a trailer, it is more of an ad, advertising all of the corporate tie-ins to the movie instead of the movie.

By now, we should be ready for the trailers proper, right? No, first we have Spider-man selling an electric toothbrush (I am not shitting you) and James Bond selling an electric razor and computer animated dudes with swords selling a video game. And when, after being advertised to death for the half hour since I stepped into the theater, I finally get a real god damn movie trailer, it gets stuck halfway through and the film melts on screen.

Which is fine. Those are fancy machines, and shit happens. But for 5 minutes, we sat and watched the surviving edges of the film, bubbling and dripping, still projected on the screen. Because it took that long for the projectionist to get there. They’re taking in Spider-man electric toothbrush dollars but they can’t afford to hire enough projectionists, or pay or train them well. They have to have one college kid running 16 projectors, selling popcorn and doing his homework at the same time. If it takes them that long to get to the non-moving, melting to death movie, how long does it take them to get to the one that’s out of focus?

The good old days, man. One or two movies in a theater, not necessarily a mainstream hit, one projectionist keeping an eye out, no more advertising than “Let’s all go to the lobby.” They even gave you a free cartoon! And people didn’t talk too much during the movies. If they had had cell phones, they would’ve known not to use them in a fucking movie theater. But now that seems like a thousand years ago, on another planet. And they wonder why people want to stay home and watch movies on dvd.

That’s probaly what you should do with FRIDAY AFTER NEXT, if you’re interested. The first FRIDAY was fresh, it had break out roles for the straight man Ice Cube and the hilarious Chris Tucker. It started its own genre of hood comedies, it had a real good soundtrack of funk and gangster rap, it had a good message and it seems funnier and better made each time you watch it. Well the sequels don’t have Chris Tucker and they’re increasingly formulaic and don’t seem all that much better than the FRIDAY imitators.

At first this one seems like it might be reaching for new territory a little, because of the great UPA style animated credits and christmassy orchestra score. But it quickly settles into the FRIDAY formula, with Craig and Day Day (Mike Epps, Craig’s cousin, introduced as the Smokey-replacement in part 2) needing a certain amount of money, Craig scoping out a hot chick from afar, everybody saying “You got knocked the fuck out!” whenever possible, Craig’s dad having to take a shit real bad, etc. This time around they get Craig’s mom from part 1 back, and his Uncle and the record store owner Pinky from part 2 back. But they can’t get Dibo back so they replace Tiny Lister with another huge, bald muscleman named Damon, who just returned from prison and still wants to rape men. Fer cryin out loud. And even when they try things that are new for the series, sometimes it’s bad like Mike Epps wearing old man makeup to play another character. You don’t want to be the new Martin Lawrence, man! Just cool it.

I mean, I enjoyed parts. Mike Epps is probaly funnier than in the last one. There are a lot of good chuckles. And it’s always good to see a movie like this, about guys who can barely pay their rent, and have to work at a strip mall, and get no respect, instead of about all those rich fuckers you usually see in movies. But the series has stretched itself too thin. It’s time to try something else, Ice Cube. We’ll see how BARBERSHOP 2 works out, I guess.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Friday, November 22nd, 2002 at 8:02 am and is filed under Comedy/Laffs, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One Response to “Friday After Next”

  1. borderline beautiful rant there, Vern.
    damned sublime, even.
    this had to have been the inspiration for that April Fool’s gag, eh?

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