Is there a plot in here?

<i>The Santa Clause III</i> takes the franchise in a new direction.

The Santa Clause III takes the franchise in a new direction.

Rated 2.0

Out of the gate, Friday After Next, the ultimately tired second sequel to the 1995 film Friday, is pretty funny stuff. The pacing is fast, the jokes are adequate, and the performances by returning stars Ice Cube and Mike Epps, who play Craig Jones and his cousin Day-Day, are likeable.

After the first half hour, it becomes clear that the film peaked in its first 15 minutes. Following a solid introduction of the characters, Friday After Next begins to grind at the nerves, becoming irritating and repetitive.

Part of the reason for the comedic deterioration is that the film’s best jokes are its characters: John Witherspoon as jittery Pop with the bad guts, Katt Micah Williams as squeaky-voiced pimp Money Mike, and Terry Crews as Damon, a muscle bound ex-prison inmate looking for some man love. They’re all funny at first. Problem is, the screenplay by Ice Cube and DJ Pooh gives them next to nothing to do.

The movie has a Christmas theme, with Craig and Day-Day getting jacked by a thief dressed as Santa in the opening sequence. Santa makes off with their Christmas presents, and beats Craig with the Christmas tree while Day-Day dreams of getting “a fat bitch for Christmas.” There’s plenty to laugh at in the first five minutes.

Things start to slow a bit when Craig and Day-Day start their jobs as “top-flight security guards” the next day at a local strip mall, which features their family’s rib joint and a fashion nook called Pimps ‘N’ Ho’s clothing. The joke is that they are unarmed, with only whistles to protect themselves, so they are left at the mercy of the public.

The public happens to include the Santa thief, who jacks them again while they’re taking a marijuana break by the Dumpster. It’s the repetition of the Santa joke that signals Friday After Next might not have much to offer along the lines of variety. It’s pretty much a one-joke affair.

If you happen to love that one joke, you’re probably in good shape. If you happen to simply like it, there’s a chance that fatigue could set in by the halfway mark, and you’ll be running on fumes by the time John Witherspoon lets out an explosive fart while sitting on the toilet. Granted, it’s a pretty funny sounding fart.

There are some good laughs generated by Money Mike’s run-in with the sexually aggressive Damon in a bathroom, and there’s no denying that Cube and Epps have a good rapport. Unfortunately for the duo, this is their second misfire in a year, following the far worse All About the Benjamins. Both were co-written by Ice Cube, so he takes some of the blame for the uninspired scenarios of both pictures. With a good screenwriter, and some stories with a little more meat, Cube and Epps could be a major blast.

I admit it: Dirty words make me laugh. Yes, I know it’s juvenile, but I was raised in a household where profanity was not permitted, so hearing a steady stream of F-bombs is a refreshing surprise in this day of safe moviemaking. It seems that nothing, not even horror films, is rated beyond PG-13 because of box office concerns. The film comes laced with all the best expletives, so it’s got that going for it.

By the time the Santa thief makes another appearance, and it’s realized that yet another showdown with him constitutes the film’s big finale, all hope that the movie might catch fire is lost.

Kooky characters spewing expletives can be fun, but there must be a decent plot for them to be part of. Friday After Next is high on empty laughs, but low on story.