‘First Sunday’ is full of stereotypes | TahoeDailyTribune.com

‘First Sunday’ is full of stereotypes

Ice Cube and Tracy Morgan star in "First Sunday." (Sony Pictures)

It’s not a very promising sign when your first review for the new year is sort of a stinker. This movie opened in limited release a week ago, and you can bet that it’ll probably be seen by a limited public.

Written and directed by David E. Talbert, “First Sunday” is a comedic vehicle for Ice Cube. Its co-star, Tracy Morgan, already knows a thing or two when it comes to funny, so I’m wondering if he lost a bet of some kind and now is making good having to appear in this movie.

Ice Cube has proven in the past that he has the ability to do some funny bits as part of an ensemble venture, such as his stint in “Three Kings” (1999) or 2002’s “Barbershop” (and its subsequent sequel in 2004). So now he is given the chance to be the lead comedic actor, and what happens? Well, let’s just say he could do much better, but unfortunately not here. What’s interesting is that he also is one of the producers, which means he could have had a say on some of the lines in the script, but then again, maybe he was just winging it this time.

The fact that his character has to resort to crime to make some money alone is pretty depressing, because his role is that of an intelligent person, so what are we saying? Go to college, become a criminal?

Morgan’s character of LeeJohn fits him, because he seems to ease into these types of roles with little problem. It’s not too far of a stretch, then, having his character as a misfit who manipulates his best friend into trying just about anything, even when he knows it’s the wrong thing to do.

Who talks one into robbing a church, anyway? Why would he? Was the reasoning worth it? Won’t spoil that part, since there will be a few who want to check out the reason, I imagine.

I will tell you this, though: Director Talbert has a long history of writing black comedies with virtually every stereotype one can think of, and if someone else had written this who wasn’t black, he probably would be getting a protest notice right about now.

It’s interesting that “First Sunday” would be released now instead of before the holiday season because of its family-oriented theme, as thin a plot as it is.

Durell (Ice Cube) loves his son but is in jeopardy of losing him. If he can’t come up with the $17,000 in child support, his ex (Regina Hall) is moving away to Atlanta with their son.

At the heart of the movie there is a moving message, but to get there is anything but moving.

The movie’s premise is somewhat saved by scenes with its supporting cast. All of them take place in a church, where most of the movie takes place, which includes Katt Williams as the choir director, Chi McBride as the pastor and Michael Beach as the deacon. They may be the only saving grace from a comedy whose jokes terribly misfire and at the wrong times.

The ending is kind of a letdown, feeling forced, going for the emotional tug – which is fine, but tie up some of the lingering issues that were first brought out earlier in the story.

“First Sunday” is the directorial debut for Talbert and, although his work as a playwright is secure, reaching a wider audience via the big screen with a less-than-impressive script can only make his next movie a step up.

– Howie Nave is host/manager of The Improv comedy club inside Harveys and reviews films for seven radio stations throughout Northern California and Nevada, including Sirius Radio. He hosts “Howie’s Morning Rush” on Tahoe’s KRLT radio, and you can see his film reviews on RSN. For past reviews, blogs, and audio clips, visit http://www.HowieNave.com.

Keepin’ it reel:

Now Playing: “First Sunday”

Starring: Ice Cube, Katt Williams, Tracy Morgan, Loretta Devine, Michael Beach, Keith David, Regina Hall, Malinda Williams, Chi McBride, Clifton Powell and Nicholas Turturro

Directed by: David E. Talbert

Rated: PG-13 for language, some sexual humor, and brief drug reference

Running Time: 98 minutes

Howie gives it: 1.5 out of 5 bagels

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