Throwaway Caper

'First Sunday' starts off well before deteriorating into family-friendly fluff

The latest piece of dopey fluff featuring Ice Cube is First Sunday, a disposable heist movie that squanders a decent supporting cast. Ice Cube is getting a rep for making movies that aren't awful, but are nothing to get all that excited about, either.

Durell and LeeJohn (Cube and Tracy Morgan) are two small-time criminals eager to find a caper and save their respective asses. LeeJohn finds a one-day gig where they're supposed to sell stolen wheelchairs for 24 hours, making them some quick cash and hopefully opening the door to further financial opportunities. The gig goes bad, and the two find themselves deeper in debt than when they started. Durell needs to get his ex-wife some big money before she takes his son away for good, and the clock is ticking.

The two are sentenced to community service after endangering lives while trying to escape the police. While cleaning up the streets, they spy a hot girl going to church, and figure they can find some action in God's earthly domain. While the two visit a service, partake in the house wine and stare at the ladies, the pastor (Chi McBride) speaks of the enormous amount of money the church has gathered through collections. A lightbulb goes off over LeeJohn's head, and he convinces Durell that a church heist is a good idea.

The film starts off fast, and I found myself laughing out loud at Morgan on more than one occasion. I love his dumb-guy delivery, and he possesses the ability to make the simplest lines of dialogue funny. Morgan, currently getting big laughs on TV's 30 Rock, is one of the more underrated talents to come out of Saturday Night Live. First Sunday appears to be a decent-enough vehicle for him--in its first half hour, that is.

Then the heist begins, and the script goes in a woefully obvious direction, with Morgan's antics falling into the background as we are introduced to the congregation that the duo takes hostage. The ambiguous preacher, the obviously slimy deacon, the sage grandma and the flamboyant choir leader (an intermittently funny Katt Williams) are among the cast of clichés. The film starts to degenerate into family-friendly mush.

You'll know where the movie's plot is going within its first half. That would be fine if the laugh factor remained high, but the chuckles dwindle to smirks, and eventually evaporate into nothing as the minutes pass. The movie instead becomes more melodramatic in nature, and that's not befitting the premise or the cast.

There is one scene in which Morgan shows a surprising flair for drama, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him try something more straightforward in the future. The moment comes out of left field and suggests he has more in his bag of tricks than humor.

Ice Cube's family comedies are interchangeable and bland. I swear to you, I didn't even realize that Are We There Yet? and Are We Done Yet? were two films in a series. It took a glance at his film roster to bring about the realization that Cube has some sort of Vacation-type series going. I saw both films without realizing one was the sequel to the other. They just sort of passed over me as barely noticed entities.

Yes, it's January, and a lot of January films tend to suck. First Sunday doesn't suck, but it is a definite throwaway movie. Ice Cube and Tracy Morgan have the talents to be a decent screen team. Let's hope they choose something a little more challenging in the future.

First Sunday is not showing in any theaters in the area.

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