In his effort to recall and contrast the enthusiastic optimism that surrounded the presidential campaign of RFK with the heartbreaking illusion-shattering reality of his assassination Estevez wisely bypasses conventional biopic storytelling or even conspiracy-minded cinematic razzle-dazzle of JFK. Instead he tells the tale from the ground level focusing on a large disparate cast of characters of differing social status – some interconnected some not – who’ve assembled at Los Angeles’ swank Ambassador Hotel on the fateful day in 1968 and as a group they’re both as troubled as that turbulent year and still each clinging to hope in their own individual ways. There’s the Dodger-loving busboy (Freddy Rodriguez) contending with a brooding racist kitchen boss (Christian Slater) and bolstered by an eloquent chef (Laurence Fishburne); the head of staff (William H. Macy) who’s sleeping with a comely switchboard girl (Heather Graham) while seemingly happily married to the hotel’s compassionate beauty salon operator (Sharon Stone); she in turn counsels both a young teen bride-to-be (Lindsay Lohan) marrying a friend (Elijah Wood) to protect him from service in Vietnam and the faded boozy lounge singer (Demi Moore) whose self-destructive cruelty alienates her subservient husband (Emilio Estevez); a veteran hotel manager (Anthony Hopkins) and his retiring crony (Harry Belafonte) reflect on their lifetime of experience while an idealistic Kennedy campaigner (Joshua Jackson) dispatches two volunteers (Shia LaBeoufand Brian Geraghty) to recruit last-minute voters but they head off on an acid trip with a high-minded hippie (Ashton Kutcher); the disconnected May-December couple (Martin Sheen and Helen Hunt) the black campaign volunteer (Nick Cannon) who’s already lost too many leaders; the crusading Czechoslovakian journalist (Lenka Janacek) scrambling for an interview with the candidate; and Kennedy himself appearing in news and archival footage the most eerily effective presence in the film. While such an A-list ensemble of actors initially seems like a director’s dream team they are also responsible for the biggest hurdle the film faces. While most films have a handful of stars and the luxury of time to help audiences forget their celebrity status and embrace them as the characters they’re playing Bobby keeps shoehorning more and more famous faces into short scenes which makes it somewhat more difficult to shake the initial distraction of “Hey there’s so-and-so!” Some of skilled cast—particularly Hopkins Belafonte Macy Sheen Hunt Rodriguez and Fishburne—make the transition easier but with others who are known more as “stars” than actors (Moore Stone Lohan and Kutcher) it takes longer to adjust. And that’s not to say those performances are bad: Moore is terrific reminding us more of her innate watchability on screen than her well-preserved looks and much-younger husband; Stone is in top form despite her overly dowdy get-up; and Kutcher shows his skill with a slightly subtler form of comedy than he usually delivers. Lohan is only passable however trying too self-consciously to appear vulnerable. Still other performances are revelations: Cannon shows as-yet-unseen depth and fire Jackson displays a Clooney-esque self-assured poise and Estevez smartly underplays his role. Understatement definitely seems to be Estevez’s watchword. He typically eschews an overly flashy cinematic approach and simply allows his actors to bring the scenes to emotional life even as he takes great pains to get the period details just right. When he does bring his technical filmmaking savvy more obviously to the forefront primarily in the scenes that integrate real scenes of Kennedy into the story it’s especially potent. Indeed the first three-quarters of the film are well-shot well-acted vignettes that evoke an era but it’s the thoughtful and clever integration of RFK into the third act that unifies and ultimately gives each of the stories—and the film as a whole—genuine dramatic power. Ultimately Estevez uses Kennedy’s own words to deliver a solemn respectful eulogy for the man and a hopeful call to keep the man’s dreams alive.
November 22, 2002 5:27am EST
In the last Friday movie the Jones family won the million-dollar lotto jackpot and left the 'hood for Beverly Hills. But the money has run out in Friday After Next and the clock ticks down once again on another Friday in the 'hood. Craig (Ice Cube) wakes up in the wee hours of Christmas Eve to find a scrawny Santa stealing the contents of his and his cousin Day-Day's (Mike Epps) apartment including Christmas presents and the rent money. "The ghetto " Craig commiserates "is the only place where you can get fried by Santa Claus on Christmas Eve." To avoid getting evicted--and possibly roughed up by the landlady's newly paroled son Damon (Terry Crews)--the two get jobs as security guards at a local strip mall where their uncle Elroy runs Bros. Bar-B-Q restaurant with the slogan "Tastes so good makes you wanna slap yo' mama." Day-Day's rent-a-cop antics eventually land the duo in some hot water resulting in yet another action-packed Friday. Friday After Next has some great lines but it's mediocre compared to its predecessors. Don't expect the staple marijuana humor here either; it has been replaced with raunchy R-rated dialogue instead.
The best thing about Friday After Next is the terrific character acting by the cast. Ice Cube's Craig is still the most reasonable Jones of the clan and his character's levelheadedness strikes a nice balance between him and Epps' motor mouth character Day-Day. Epps made his first appearance as Day-Day in Next Friday after Chris Tucker who starred as Craig's original sidekick Smokey in Friday left. Together Epps and Ice Cube who also collaborated together on All About the Benjamins fit neatly like a sort of urban Laurel and Hardy. A hilarious new edition to Friday After Next is Katt Williams in the role of Money Mike who runs the Pimp N' Ho's clothing store. Williams' diminutive size doesn't hamper the stand-up comedian-turned-actor's performance as he prances around the strip mall like he's a big man on campus. While the film has some new faces it also has familiar ones like the return of John Witherspoon in the role of Craig's father. This time around Witherspoon has made his character Mr. Jones much more crass.
While all three installments of the Friday series were scripted and produced by Ice Cube Friday After Next marks video director Marcus Raboy's feature film directorial debut. So while the films have some common thematic elements such as having to come up with cash in 24 hours (usually followed by an "or else") or being terrorized by a neighborhood bully they differ in look and style. Raboy's style here is similar to a music video; that is fast paced bordering on frenetic. And while he achieves the campy '70 look he was aiming for you may leave the theater thinking too much happened between Thursday and Saturday. Craig and Day-Day for example spend too much time chasing after the ghetto Santa or being chased by hooligans and not enough smoking weed. Ice Cube and Epps have such a great rapport on screen that it would have been nice to see them sit back and exchange witty dialogue. Their was also too much focus on the older cast members including Witherspoon and Don "DC" Curry who spend the entire film being repulsively raunchy--which is disturbing in a hearing-your-parents-talk-about-sex kind of way.