First Sunday

First Sunday (2008)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Cast: Ice Cube, Tracy Morgan, Chi McBride
Extras: Commentary, Deletes Scenes, Outtakes, Featurettes

David E. Talbert's first Hollywood feature film "First Sunday" is the type of film that has an audience already targeted even before pre-production. These types of films have a built-in target audience that it aims to please, but sometimes a film can come together solely to serve a certain consumer. It gets them through the door and sells some popcorn. Like the "Friday" films before it, this film was also produced by Ice Cube, except it takes the safe route and offends absolutely no one, although it does feature a transvestite masseuse in one scene. Now you may find this odd considering the film is about two men who decide to rob a church.

With his first film, David Talbert doesn't take any unnecessary risks and simply aims to fill theater seats, and the Ice Cube we know from "Barbershop" and "Boyz In The Hood" certainly called this one in and walks safely through it, giving a predictable performance as he has somehow allowed himself to be typecast as a reluctant gangster again. A street thug with a heart of gold. Perhaps it's time for him to move on to other more enlightening projects, like doing voice overs for Pizza Hut commercials.

Durell Washington (Ice Cube) and LeeJohn Jackson (Tracy Morgan) play small time crooks; an incompetent, fumbling odd couple since childhood (Durell is always griping about the crazy hijinx LeeJohn causes, you get the picture) where they started their friendship. A promising student at one point in his life, Durell has let LeeJohn get them in trouble with the law, making us wonder what Durell possibly sees in this annoying freak who has destroyed his life, but we shouldn't ask these questions in a film like this, a buddy flick certainly, but misguided since I don't think the two make a believable couple of misguided criminals. In fact I don't really see that the two have any chemistry at all, especially comedic.

Either way, Durell has a son who lives with his ex-wife (Regina Hill). He is depicted as the type of father who walks his son to school every day, (despite the fact that he's packing heat). He is there for his son, whom he will likely lose contact with unless he comes up with a large sum of money to help his ex open a salon in town. LeeJohn has his own financial needs as well, which is why their failed attempt at moving some pimped out wheelchairs gets them 5000 hours of community service.

Out of complete desperation they come up with a plan, to rob a church and make away with $17,000. Once they arrive everything goes terribly wrong and the money isn't even there, it has been robbed beforehand and to find out who has the money they take it upon themselves to hold the entire church hostage. Along the way we meet a zany group of characters and our anti heroes learn some powerful lessons. Among the crazy group of people they bond with during the hostage crisis is a preacher named Pastor Arthur Mitchell (Chi McBride). His manic and over-the-top performance provides some of the few laughs to be had in this lackluster comedy filled with predictable stereotypes. I just didn't find this project very funny, perhaps I am not a part of the target audience, or perhaps the movie sucks, you can decide for yourself.

The perils of being unemployed and desperate are an underlying theme, much like the children without fathers and the faith based subtext, David E. Talbert tries to tackle some social issues and mix it with screwball comedy, much like Tyler Perry (and of course David Talbert was a successful playwright first). Although he doesn't succeed with his first effort, I have a feeling he may be more comfortable in the future, we'll see.

The audio and video on this release are good enough to warrant an extra star in my review, especially the video which truly is quite impressive and looks every bit as good as a new release should on the Blu-ray format. We have a picture that fills the screen with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and it is very vibrant and colorful. The detail is very sharp and objects in the background stand out with a clarity that is quite striking. Complementing this feature we also have black levels that are appropriate and add a sense of overall depth. This is an impressive looking picture, and fans of the film shouldn't find too much to complain about.

The audio is also exceptional, as it features a very clean and discrete sounding Dolby TrueHD track that is also available in French and Portuguese also, as Sony certainly always goes out of their way to cater to a variety of languages, which is commendable. While the surrounds kick in during the scenes of silly comedic action and mayhem, we also notice a very wide sound field, especially when music is being played, which is quite often.

As for the special features we have an audio commentary from David E. Talbert and it is interesting to listen to a new film director reflect on his work. Apparently, Ice Cube was too busy to participate, since it seems that he will take almost any role that pays the bills. As for Tracy Morgan, his drunken rants are mysteriously absent to my true disappointment.

As for the rest of the bonus material we have a featurette called 'Hood Robbin' With The First Sunday Cast And Crew' which features about sixteen minutes of behind the scenes chatter, interviews and the whole routine, although it certainly doesn't go into as much detail as the commentary, which is a good thing. I'm glad to see everyone so happy to be getting a paycheck.

We have thirteen 'Deleted Scenes' which are disposable and don't add to the picture. Sometimes I wonder why these are even included, it must be just to put an extras blurb on the back of the box. We also have a 'Gag Reel' and 'Outtakes' to round out a nice little selection of special features, although they are like many of the special features out there today, simply created to make the product seem more attractive. Sometimes I wish they would just release a film without special features at all and just give us the movie; especially after watching people gush over a mediocre project, it's somewhat traumatizing.

All of the bonus materials are in standard definition, and I hope this trend changes soon. We do have four high definition trailers however.

So, here we have a comedy that didn't work for me that I think everyone involved created simply to cash in on something; What? I don't know. Perhaps Ice Cube is a celebrity of stature after he started making films that make Steve Martin still look edgy, but for whatever reason, here it is. Although I'm sure fans of Tyler Perry or these types of comedies may want to check it out as a rental. With an appropriate amount of bonus material and strong audio and video that raises this release to a higher level, you will certainly want to pick this title up if you are a fan of this picture. The rest of us should pass, however.