Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

For a minute there I thought I was going to have to type up a special article entitled ‘When Black Movies Go Real Bad’ after watching the first half of the Ice Cube joint ‘First Sunday’, following close on the heels of my having to suffer through ‘Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins’ this past weekend. But somehow, someway, ‘First Sunday’ managed to rescue itself from the morass and actually managed to end up as genuinely entertaining, or at least I thought so.

Cube takes on the role of Durell, a misguided young man of good intelligence who always seems to get caught up doing the wrong thing. Not helping Durell stay on the straight and narrow is his lifelong buddy LeeJohn (Tracy Morgan) who always has some lame brained scheme that he’s getting mixed up in. This particular day finds Durell and LeeJohn trying move souped up wheel chairs across town in a beat up van for some violent Jamaicans. Of course this all goes to straight to hell for our heroes as they get roped in by the police, lose all the wheelchairs to the disgust of their Jamaican benefactors and lands Durell and LeeJohn in front of the Judge (Keith David) who yet again, for whatever reason, has sympathy for these gentlemen and sentences them to 5000 hours of community service. If you do the math, that’s like two years straight of 8 hour days with no pay, including holidays and weekends or as we like to say, that’s some community service for your ass right there.

Durell has other issues to deal with as his poor life decisions has made it difficult for him to keep up with his son Junior (C.J. Sanders) which is pushed his ghetto-riffic babies mama Omunique (Regina Hall) to the breaking point. As such Omunique has plans to movie from B-more to the ATL since the lease on her hair salon is up and she will need like 17 large to renew it. One fateful day while picking up garbage, the duo spots the lovely Tianna (Malinda Williams) heading to church, dressed wildly

inappropriately for Sunday service I might add, especially considering she’s the Pastors (Chi McBride) daughter, and get inspired to attend the service. After attending the services and drinking all the communion grape juice, our pair learn that churches get money like every Sunday, an amazing revelation, which sparks a plan in the dim brain of Leejohn who manages to convince a desperate Durell to rob the church later that night.

Naturally, again, things here also go straight to hell after they force the Deacon (Michael Beach) to open the safe and learn that there is no money inside. This forces Durell to hold the members of the church hostage, including their flamboyant choir director Rickey (Katt Williams) while he plays Sherlock Holmes to figure out who in the church stole the money so that he and LeeJohn can steal it back from them. Through the night however we witness both Durell and LeeJohn coming to care for the church members, and they for them, as they open their hearts and attempt to heal the deep wounds that life has dealt these poor boys, and pray that sometime before the night is over that they make the right decisions that will save them from a lifetime of prison.

Forty six minutes and twenty three seconds. That was the time that the DVD timer read when me and the wife had our first real laugh from ‘First Sunday’. The boy was laughing all the while, but he’s twelve and an idiot. Until that point we were watching this movie try and try and try to be funny as it failed time and time again. Nothing was working, and if I was the kind of person who shut crap movies off, which I obviously am not, I would have shut this one down with a quickness. Then at 46:23 there was a funny scene in the church, and it was really funny, and somehow from that moment on ‘First Sunday’ found a way to get itself together and actually became a halfway decent movie. It stopped trying to force humor down our throats but allowed the story to flow naturally and also let the talented cast, which also included Loretta Devine, Olivia Cole and Clifton Powell work within the confines of that story. Sure during this time the movie got a little a preachy and a bit melodramatic, but that actually worked in its favor as opposed to the failed humor of the first half of the movie. Maybe they changed editors, or recognized during the shooting that the thing was going nowhere, but I do appreciate the fact that something changed and they did try to make it better.

One little bitty issue though. I like looking at scantily clad women as much as the next guy and you will hard pressed to find a woman who is blessed with more feminine gifts than Malinda Williams, but surely we recognize that wearing a strapless backless dress two sizes too small with underwires pushing up an already incredibly healthy set of naturals is bit inappropriate for Sunday Service. I’m just saying is all. I mean Regina Hall, who takes a back seat to no woman, is supposed to the ghetto fab babe in this flick and she was dressed like nun compared to pastor’s daughter. Just an observation.

If you can make it through the truly putrid first half of director David E. Talbert’s ‘Fist Sunday’ you will be treated to reasonably entertaining movie that has a good heart and some good humor and Katt Williams doing what he does to perfection. But be warned, that first half is a sonofagun.

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