Movie News & Reviews

Script of 'Next Day Air' fails to deliver

Back before I struck it rich telling people what to think aboutpopular entertainment, I worked for a chain of packing and shippingstores.

The temptation to steal in a job like that is basically overwhelming.It's especially bad when you work in a college town with a bigagricultural department. Instant the customer's back is turned, bam,you've got your hands on more frozen bull semen than you know how tohandle. We shipped everything under the sun. I could be sitting on adozen 80-pound bars of stolen silver right now if only I weren't tooweak to lift my own eyelids. Have to prop them open with littletoothpick things.

-- Times, theaters.

There isn't much wonder to be found in any job that can make you hateChristmas, but packages, like movies, could still surprise you afteryou'd seen a thousand. Next Day Air may have brought me back tomy shipping days, but some "Man, I'm glad I don't do that anymore"nostalgia is about all it provoked out of me.

Despite their incompetence — they recently robbed a bank without takingany actual money — Mike Epps and Wood Harris are able to scrape by asarmed thugs. Their luck takes a sudden upswing when stoned deliveryman Donald Faison misdelivers a package of 10 bricks of cocaine totheir apartment.

Epps and Harris immediately arrange to broker it to Epps' dealercousin, but any chunk of drugs that big is bound to draw heat. Withinhours, both its sender and its intended recipient are locked on thetrail.

I could watch things getting stolen for days. This is probably becauseunless you have a thing for gin-stained carpets and Lord of theRings fanfic scripts, the only thing I own worth stealing is theneighbor's laptop I break in to compose these on every weekend. Heistmovies, then, are normally right up my alley.

Part of the big appeal is they almost always feature funny screwoffswho end up in way over their heads and then die horribly, which Ithink is pretty much a perfect metaphor for life. Next Day Airsets itself up to succeed in this department with a winning cast ofsmall- and no-name actors who improve every role they're in, butwriter Blair Cobbs' script is too thin to give them what they need towork with.

It has its moments. Loose and sporadically funny, the movie's charmingenough, especially when it spends time with Faison and his degeneratecoworker Mos Def. What this suggests to me is that crime stories aredone, but the package delivery industry is a rich vein of untapped boxoffice gold. My big idea: a shipping company constantly prankscustomers by wrapping their dishes in one layer of bubble wrapinstead of two. Burn.

Less awesome is the gangster side. It's an odd thing to feel as though Eppsand Harris are simultaneously believable characters and alsooverfamiliar yet underdeveloped types, but that's how it hit me, sodeal with it.

Maybe it's the lack of investment in these poor saps that explains whythe crime story never seems to fully understand where it's going,right up through an ending that's as much arbitrary as satisfying.Next Day Air is that odd movie where you keep finding yourselfwishing you liked it more than what you're watching on the screen.

Grade: C+

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