May 7, 2009


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Next Day Air (R)
A pothead delivers some much more serious drugs to the wrong apartment in Next Day Air, a weird, flat comedy crime caper.

Leo (Donald Faison) is a bit of a loser — just barely hanging on to his job (where he works for his mom, no less) as a UPS-like delivery person. How does a man in his directionless position chase the blues away? With pot, of course, lots of pot. But getting that high that often makes even a straightforward task like delivering packages to the right address hard for Leo. Instead of delivering a box hiding 10 kilos of cocaine to drug-dealing middleman Jesus (Cisco Reyes) and his girlfriend Chita (Yasmin Deliz) he delivers it to their neighbors across the apartment hall, under-achieving robbers Brody (Mike Epps) and Guch (Wood Harris). They decide this surprise cocaine is a gift from God and call up Brody’s cousin Shavoo (Omari Hardwick) to get him to come buy the cocaine and sell it. Shavoo is happy to do so but first he needs to get the cash, a task that proves more difficult than he originally thought. Which means that when Jesus’ boss Bodega (Emilio Rivera) shows up, the cocaine is still with Brody and Guch, much to the detriment of everyone’s health.

And, to break things up, Mos Def provides a bit of comic relief as a small-time thief named Eric.

Here’s the thing — if you’ve got Mos Def in your movie, why not use him for something fun? This movie makes rather throwaway use of him, sprinkling a few mumbly jokes in amongst the gangsters with guns. I don’t know if Mos Def could have saved this movie but like a little bit of Parmesan on a pasta dish or salty peanuts on top of a hot fudge sundae, he helps liven up the flavor and add a little different texture.

And this movie could use some livening, texture and flavor. Next Day Air is funny-ish and probably at some point had the potential to make it all the way to laugh-inducing. But it never goes beyond potential. It feels flat and dull. It’s as though the film’s makers gathered all the parts — wacky inept criminals, hapless shmo, sassy Latina chick and multiple cartoonish gun-wielding gangsters — but they couldn’t figure out how to fit them together. We get a pile of half-hearted jokes, half-baked dialog and characters displaying mostly the one dimension. This is, if you think about, not too different from other wacky criminal violence-based comedies (Shoot ’Em Up springs to mind) but for some reason here the movie just didn’t come together in a way that offers the hoped-for naughty fun. C

Rated R for pervasive language, drug content, some violence and brief sexuality. Directed by Benny Boom and written by Blair Cobbs, Next Day Air is an hour and 30 minutes long and opens in wide release on Friday, May 8. The film is distributed by Paramount Pictures