Studio: New Line Cinema
US Rating: R – For Pervasive Strong Language and Drug Use, and for a Brutal Fight
Film Length: 97 Minutes
Video: 1080p High Definition 16X9 - 1.85:1
Audio: Dolby TrueHD: English 7.1, Dolby Digital: English 5.1 EX
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Smokey: Why you not goin' to work?
Craig Jones: I got fired yesterday.
Smokey: No s#&t? I thought you had the day off yesterday.
Craig Jones: I did. I went in to pick up my check, came home, my supervisor called me about four o'clock, told me he got me on tape stealing boxes.
Smokey: The f*#k you stealing boxes for? What you trying to build, a clubhouse?
The Film: 4 out of 5
For anyone that has never seen Friday, I am loath to dub it an urban comedy. Adding the ‘urban’ moniker to anything – art, music, and clothing – sadly appears to limit the supposed audience, appeal, and appreciation of anything ascribed with such a term. But the film Friday, a deliriously funny slice of life in a poorer suburb of Los Angelis, Ca, pulses, breathes, lampoons, and loves the urban sphere of one of the world’s most complex and diverse cities, and it should be funny to anyone that can abide strong language and weed on film.
Former rapper, Ice Cube, co-wrote, co-produced, and stars in Friday with a solid cast of actors portraying an absurd array of characters. These characters have just enough reality built in to them to be as recognizable as they are hilarious to anyone who grew up in or near a neighborhood like the one on full display here. DJ Pooh worked with Ice Cube on the story, which leisurely takes us through a day and night in the lives of Craig – just fired from his job, Smokey – a weed addict happily smoking away the product he is supposed to be selling, and an array of their friends, family, and foes that ebb and flow into their day.
What begins as a boring Friday, sitting on the porch watching the day, and the assortment of neighborhood characters come and go, becomes far more complicated when Smokey must come up with the $200 he was supposed to have made selling the weed that he smoked to pay pack a scary figure, Big Worm.
Ice Cube stars as Craig Jones, an even-keeled soul trying to make it through the day after having been fired (while he was on his day off, no less). He lives with his parents (Played by the hilarious, John Witherspoon and Anna Maria Horsford) and sister, Dana (played by Regina King). His mother is patient and a little oblivious, his father an impatient man prone to recalling how things were back in ‘his’ day (and chastising Craig for eating up all the food), and his sister is un-impressed with the predicaments that Craig finds himself in. The pot-head is played by Chris Tucker, who it must be said, steals the entire film with his off-beat, crazy, and uniquely physical comedy performance. His character is golden – with a weasel-like preponderance for being all-mouth when no-one is around, and demonstrating an Olympic cowardice when faced with direct threats or pressure – he truly owns the role of Smokey.
The rest of the cast all seem to shine regardless of how big or small the role is. The outrageously gorgeous Nia Long plays Debbie, friend of Craig’s sister and somewhat love-interest through the film, Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister plays the neighborhood bully and thief, Deebo, Faizon Love plays Big Worm (or as Smokey refers to him, “Big Perm”), and Bernie Mac plays Pastor Clever – a man of the cloth who desires women in the flesh – a very funny, albeit brief, performance.
Friday was directed by F. Gary Gray, a man who showed some true ingenuity in how the film was shot and paced. Gray provides plenty of close-up shots to capture either the very comedic expressions of the actors, or their dismay or frustration at what is happening in the scene. As with the best comedies, Friday achieves some fine dramatic moments that never feel unwarranted or out of balance with the story or characters. The film is confident, even in the more low-brow comedic moments which may turn some people off – but every moment of the film is an impressive element in the tapestry of ‘urban’ life that is placed on full display. Characters, situations, requests, and challenges that are deeply rooted in the reality of life in some poorer neighborhoods, are ramped up and conveniently placed on a conveyor belt through a crazy Friday – and the results are a rich, ludicrously funny, highly original, and highly recommended comedy.
The Video: 4 out of 5
Warner Bros. have worked wonders with the video presentation of Friday. With a 1080p High Definition transfer that retains the film’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, this Blu-Ray release is a significant improvement over the old DVD release (mine is the snapper case version). This new Director’s cut is inconsistent, that’s for sure, but even in the soft, hazed moments (mostly indoors), the image is better than we have seen. The true power of the image can be experienced in the many scenes on Craig’s porch. As the director uses more close-ups, the level of detail (and lack of DNR) is immediately apparent. Skin pores are clearly visible, flesh tones natural, and the overall look of the image is utterly crisp. Fantastic! The down side is the interior shots, and one or two exterior shots that don’t seem to be part of the same film at all (quality-wise). But, this could be the result of different film stock, variances in processing, or some other factor that we could lay upon the director, cinematographer, or other artistically intended source. The variance in sharpness does little to dampen the impressiveness of this transfer. Film grain appears unscathed in this transfer, and overall, for a small budget film from 1995, I was very impressed.
The Sound: 4 out of 5
Warner Bros. get high marks for the inclusion of the 7.1, and the 5.1 EX audio on this release. While the film never offered a truly bombastic sound design, the audio delivers with unexpectedly effective surrounds, crystal clear dialogue in the center channel, and even some healthy bass from the songs used. As with the video, the audio is far better than anything this film has been presented with in the past, with superb fidelity at times, and likely the very best you will find for a very long time. Very good!
The Extras: 3.5 out of 5
New Featurette: Friday: Straight Up: (HD) The cast, and Director F. Gary Gray reflect back on the highly original, slice of life comedy. Ice Cube speaks about how he intended the film to provide some balance to how the ‘hood was represented on film – to show a different side. Good reflections interspersed with plenty of movie clips. (24:14)
Introduction by Ice Cube: (SD) A brief intro to the film by an appreciative Ice Cube. (00:34)
Additional Scenes: (SD) Included are 7 deleted scenes – additional moments associated with scenes from the final cut – some good (anything with Mr. Jones played by John Witherspoon), and some average. (14:31)
Q&A Interviews with Director F. Gary Gray and Producer Patricia Charbonnet: (SD) An interesting featurette with the director and producer sharing backstory, budget, working with the actors, and much more. (19:26) & (14:32)
2 Music Videos: (SD) Ice Cubes Friday and Dr. Dre’s Keep Their Heads Ringing. (9:06)
Theatrical Trailers: (SD)
Friday is a modern comedy classic. Revered among those who can recall its premiere back in 1995 – or who have seen it on DVD or caught it on near constant rotation on cable. For its extremely low budget, New Line had a seriously unexpected hit on its hand when Friday opened to over $6MM, and ended up with approximately $27.5MM by the end of its run. With two financially successful sequels, its cast of characters (minus Chris Tucker) found more hilarity in the format – though nothing that compared to the insanely funny, expertly dramatic, and far more meaningful film than any could have predicted when it was released to cinemas almost 15 years ago. Available now in the best format for viewing film (beyond a good movie theater) and with an additional 6 minutes in this Director’s Cut – this is the absolute best way to enjoy this modern classic.
Overall 4 out of 5