Do you remember the days when Ice Cube was a tough guy, gangster rapper with N.W.A.? How about when he crossed over into the world of cinema with the critically acclaimed Boyz n the Hood? If you don’t recall any of those times, then you’ve clearly missed out on the best of what he has to offer. His latest, First Sunday, is already, in my humble opinion, in the running for the worst movie of 2008.
The reason is so simple – it is unfunny and completely unoriginal. As a matter of fact it is very nearly a copy of Friday (Cube’s crowning comedic achievement and one of the funnier movies made in the past 15 years). This time instead of teaming up with Chris Tucker and getting chased through the hood for drug money, he’s on the run with Tracy Morgan due to a wheelchair scam gone wrong. The solution they concoct is to rob a local church and use the ill-gotten proceeds to pay off their “business partner” and to stop Durell’s (Cube) ex-wife from taking his son to Atlanta.
As if you couldn’t imagine it before I said it, the robbery doesn’t go as planned and Durell and LeeJohn (Morgan) find themselves holding an eclectic mix of church heads and patrons against their will as they try and locate the weekend’s donations. Director, David E. Talbert, tries to use this ensemble cast of church-goers consisting of Katt Williams, Chi McBride, Michael Beach, Loretta Devine and Malinda Williams to cover-up the fact that there is no real substance to First Sunday. First he tries to offset the inane banter between the main characters with one-liners and overly gay antics by Williams. Some of moments are funny (Williams is a great standup comedian) but mostly they’re just sad space fillers. When that has all but played itself out he then tries to cast an enlightening tone with the movie by throwing in heart-to-heart moments that try to establish that these guys aren’t bad people, they’re just victims of circumstance. With his three models in place, Talbert simply repeats the formula, ad nauseum.
Now even though First Sunday is clearly lacking in anything substantive, it does at least try and deliver a good message. Durell gets pulled into this ridiculous scenario, not because he’s a worthless prick, but because he desperately wants to remain close to his son (I’m not going to debate whether spending 20-years to life in prison is infinitely worse than having his son move away – it is). The movie also tries to emphasize the concept of giving everyone a second chance — whether it is with the judge not throwing the book at Durell and LeeJohn even after seeing them in his courtroom countless times or the church congregation reaching out to help them after their ordeal.
But even with these feel-good overtones snaking their way through the film, First Sunday is a bona fide disaster. The bulk of the movie is clueless and even more damning, lifeless. It turns out to be more of a vehicle for Ice Cube to give more menacing looks than you can shake a stick at and for Tracy Morgan to try and recapture what Lorne Michaels saw in him to cast him in SNL (I’d love to know what he saw in him). Aside from Katt Williams dropping a funny line now and again, there isn’t a single redeeming quality about this film. Instead of watching this, I’d recommend doing anything else that spans approximately 1Â½ hours – it’ll be time better spent.