First Sunday

First Sunday is a piece of crap, but a well meaning one. It avoids the pathetic stereotypes usually germane to most throwaway ethnocentric comedies and tries its damndest to say something smart and uplifting about the basic goodness of man and the positive influence religion done right can have over people. Ah if only they’d had a halfways decent script. Or a real director. Or a barely mediocre editor. Alas the film has none of those things, just some good intentions and a talented cast left wandering aimlessly around in front of an altar; like a jilted bridegroom who woke up this morning, put on his tux, and drove to church with every expectation that the day would go much better than it has.

Ice Cube and Tracy Morgan star as a pair of ghetto-dwelling losers down on their luck and desperate. The film opens with them being sentenced to 5,000 hours of community service for some bizarre misunderstanding with the cops. They spend about 30 seconds picking up trash off the street, but the movie soon drops that red herring of a plot and launches them towards a caper to steal from god. The local church has done well in donations, and our deeply in-debt, lovable losers decide they have no choice but to rob it.

They break in, but things go wrong, and soon they’re trapped in the church with the pastor, his parishioners, and a choir. That sounds like a pretty good plot for a formula comedy, forcing two thugs to interact with the black community’s equivalent of the church lady could I suppose, be sort of funny. In First Sunday though, it’s not. It’s all so muddled, as if the movie doesn’t know what to do with itself. Characters wander around muttering dialogue to themselves, as if the actors playing them aren’t really sure they’re supposed to be saying it. The camera can’t seem to settle on anyone, and it bounces around from one closeup to another, with each scene quickly devolving into a series of random asides from people who have absolutely nothing to do with anything that’s going on. Worst of all is the film’s editing, which is amateurish to say the least, filled with splices and jarring cuts which make the whole thing look like it was put together by a group of first graders attacking the film with a dozen pairs of left-handed safety scissors.

Still it’s not an evil movie. It’s not as if First Sunday sets out to be awful, it simply is. If it’s any consolation to anyone, I think that it is possible to make a good movie with the characters and actors contained within it. This isn’t a good movie, but I could see it happening, if someone with a little talent wrote these people into a completely different script and then spent the money necessary to film it, instead of cutting and pasting Polaroid photos onto construction paper and then waving it in front of a projector. But then it’s January, I suppose it was too much to expect any better.