Good-natured and friendly despite its relentless profanity, Friday After Next continues the story of Craig (Ice Cube) and Day Day (Mike Epps), hapless cousins living near Crenshaw Boulevard in Los Angeles. Its ramshackle plot is just an excuse for loosely structured skits and mild-mannered slapstick. Still, it's hard not to like the hard-working cast, even if the jokes often fall flat.

Robbed in the opening scene by a drunken, vicious Santa Claus (Rickey Smiley), Craig and Day-Day are forced to take jobs as security guards in order to pay the rent. They end up in a strip mall owned by Moly (Maz Jobrani), proud owner of the Holy Moly Donut Shop. Other stores in the mall include Bros. Bar-B-Q, jointly owned by Craig's father Willy Jones (John Witherspoon) and Day-Day's father Elroy (Don 'DC' Curry), and Pimp N' Ho's clothing store, run by the resplendent Money Mike (Katt Williams).

Although armed only with a whistle, Day-Day takes his job seriously, running off an elderly church chorale group for singing Christmas carols. Craig helps foil some shoplifters, in the process falling for Money Mike's sales clerk, Donna (K.D. Aubert). But Craig and Day-Day are robbed by Santa again while smoking pot behind the barbeque joint. And when members of a gang show up, the two have to decide how much their jobs are really worth.

The thin plot leaves plenty of opportunities for the supporting cast to stretch out. Witherspoon and Curry repeat their bickering act from the previous Friday films (and, in fact, repeat the act several times here). As an ex-con who is trying to deny his homosexual leanings, Terry Crews manages to be funny without being offensive. Some of the best lines go to Reggie Gaskins and Joel McKinnon Miller as cops who spend most of the film getting high and eating doughnuts.

The ingratiating Ice Cube, who also wrote and produced, gives another adroitly laid-back performance. Mike Epps has toned down his delivery, and is consequently far less obnoxious than in previous films. Unfortunately, his punchlines miss more often than not.

While everyone deserves an A for effort, Friday After Next is still an extremely lightweight affair. There are some fine sight gags sprinkled through the story, and every now and then an unexpectedly funny line pops up. (Listen to how Moly pronounces 'Bros. Barb-B-Q.') But overall, Friday After Next is a lot more bluster than bite.

-Daniel Eagan