It's sad the way that people in Hollywood get typecast. Apart from "Boyz n the Hood," "Three Kings," and "Barbershop," has Ice Cube acted in a film that wasn't a disappointment? Though this guy's got talent and on-screen charisma, when you see his name in the credits lately, you almost wince, knowing he's going to be playing the same type of character, and the film is going to be a turkey.
That's exactly what "First Sunday" turns out to be, basted or not.
You'd think with funny co-stars like Tracy Morgan--the SNL guy who was a riot in "30 Rock"--and stand-up comic Katt Williams there's be a lot more laughs than this script from writer-director David E. Talbert provides. In his parody of a choir master, Williams reminds you a little of Arsenio Hall's riotous Reverend Brown from "Coming to America," and it's moments like these when you find yourself wondering why Talbert didn't go more over-the-top with this one. Instead, he weaves "serious" moments into a plotline that, frankly, doesn't deserve and can't support them.
Cube plays a small-time hood named Durrell who seems nice enough, doesn't belong to a gang, but has become the poster child for underachievement. We're told he got high SAT scores, but instead of ending up on a college campus he spends most of his time standing before a judge with his less brainy buddy, LeeJohn (Morgan). Their latest offense lands them a gazillion hours of community service.
But their problems go deeper than those not-exactly-stylin' orange jump suits. The truckload of hot wheelchairs they bought from Jamaican gangstas, hoping to sell them and make a killing, spilled onto the streets. Now the Jamaicans are threatening to kill them if they don't come up with the money for the chairs. It's a premise that would seem to have the potential for comedy, but it only comes off like the opening scene from "Beverly Hills Cop," and nothing funnier. Contrivances abound. As if being in hock to the Jamaicans wasn't enough, we're told that Durrell's ex- (Regina Hall) is going to move to Atlanta and take his son, unless he gives her back child support and the money she needs to keep her hair styling business in town. So we get the obligatory tender moment between Durrell and his son that will supposedly justify anything he does to get the money . . . which is rob a church. And if that doesn't work, take the congregation hostage.
In the cluttered muddle that follows, the only comedic moments come from Morgan and Williams, with Cube playing his usual long-suffering, angry, straight man. But those laughs don't come from the script. They come from watching two comics have fun with their characters. Would that more of them had. Then again, Talbert's script and direction are so low-key that it seems half the characters are playing it straight while half are going for comedy. And nobody can get very far going in two separate directions.
It's almost as if no one can figure out what to do with Ice Cube. "Are We There Yet?" was so over-the-top that it was silly, and even Cube's deadpan couldn't save it. Here, he plays the same character in a more low-key comedy, but the results are the same. It took a special director to get the most out of Robin Williams, and it's going to take someone who's willing to push Cube to get that kind of performance out of him. Right now, he seems to be just going through the motions. If it wasn't for Williams hopping around like a jive peacock and Morgan acting like a dodo, "First Sunday" would have been an even bigger turkey. The plot is weak and single-pronged, the direction is lethargic, and the script puts a pulled wishbone strain on everything.
There's not much more to say except that Cube can add another line to his resume of disappointing films.
The 1080p picture (AVC/MPEG-4) looks very good though, presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio and with solid black levels and pretty decent color saturation. There's the slightest bit of grain in some of the scenes and what looks to be compression artifacts in one segment. Other than that, it's a fine picture--which I never thought I'd say of "First Sunday."
The featured audio is an English, French, or Portuguese Dolby TrueHD 5.1, which lately Sony has been gravitating towards. And they're starting to get TrueHD right. In the past, there was a big drop-off between PCM and TrueHD, but the dynamics are very good on this disc, with a rich timbre and good balance. Additional options are Spanish and Thai Dolby Digital 5.1, with subtitles in English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Thai, Arabic, and Dutch.
Though Talbert thinks more highly of this film and his efforts than I do, his commentary is still worth listening to--more enjoyable for me than the movie. There's also a Blu-ray exclusive "Almighty Version" fact track that's again more fun than the film itself. As for the rest of the features, they're pretty standard: a handful of deleted scenes playable with or without commentary, a gag reel, a few outtakes, a promo-style featurette on the cast and crew, and Talbert's camera wrap speech (which are becoming more common on DVD bonus features these days).
Lately, if you've seen one Ice Cube "comedy," you've seen them all. "First Sunday" is just another of his films that promised to be so much better than it turned out to be. Aside from funny routines from Morgan and Williams, it's a dull and uninspired bit of moviemaking.