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First Sunday (2008)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 4/6/2008

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 5/7/2008

Thanks to the behind-the-scenes featurettes found on most DVDs these days, film fans know that making a movie is a team effort. While the director and producer often run the show (or a prima-dona actor), everyone plays their part in completing the project. But, the on-screen material may not always look like a cohesive endeavor. First Sunday is a comedy which features a very large cast. However, only two of the actors actually get involved in the comedy. The result is a lot of moments with no laughs, and thus, no entertainment.

Ice Cube and Tracy Morgan star in First Sunday as Durell and LeeJohn, lifelong friends who are constantly getting into trouble. Following a botched attempt to sell pimped-out wheelchairs, the duo are sentenced to community service. Durell learns that Omunique (Regina Hall) doesnít have enough money to pay the rent on her beauty shop, so sheís planning to move to Atlanta and take Durellís son (C.J. Sanders) with her. While trying to decide where they can get the money to solve their problems, Durell and LeeJohn wander into a local church. There, they see that the parishioners give very generously to the church funds. As Durell wants to find enough money for Omunique to stay, and LeeJohn must find funds to cover the loss of the wheelchairs, they decide to rob the church. However, their plan fails miserably, as the church isnít empty as theyíd thought it would be. Instead, many important members of the clergy and congregation are present, and they have no intention of giving these thugs their money. Thus begins a standoff where everyone will learn the truth about themselves.

Writer/Director David E. Talbert is better known as a playwright, and heís making his feature-film debut with First Sunday (Iíve never heard of him, but judging from his bio, it sounds like heís similar to Tyler Perry). With that in mind, itís easy to see where Talbert makes some freshman mistakes.

The most obvious issue with the film is itís uneven tone. First Sunday was marketed as a comedy (and the DVD box proclaims this as well), but the film often leans towards a more serious side. The plot-points concerning Durellís fear of losing his son and the idea that the church would forsake itís urban setting for a more suburban one figure very prominently in the story. And where these ideas would simply be comedic jumping off points in most movies, Talbert really dwells on them, forcing First Sunday to be more of a drama than a comedy. This problem here is that all of the serious ideas in the film are very hackneyed and we feel as if weíve seen them all before. (Iím not saying that they arenít serious issues, but the whole ďbaby daddyĒ thing was tired right after Boyz N the Hood was released.)

These more dramatic scenes are combined with the comedic moments which donít go very far. On the whole, First Sunday isnít a very funny movie. It contains only a few humorous situations and the dialogue is often flat. The only laughs in the film come from Tracy Morgan and Katt Williams, two men who are naturally funny. And I donít know this for a fact, but Iíd be willing to bet that most of the funny things that they say werenít in the script. (Especially all of Morganís non-sequitirs.) Despite the fact that the rest of the cast is made up of talented actors and familiar faces, the comedy wealth isnít spread amongst them. Other than Morgan or Williams, no one else utters a single funny thing in this movie. At times, it feels as if Morgan and Williams wandered onto the set of a movie which wasnít supposed to be a comedy.

The filmís pacing could also use some help. The story moves pretty quickly during the first act, but once Durell and LeeJohn enter the church, the movie slows considerably. Perhaps Talbert wanted us to know what it feels like to be held hostage. Whatever the case, First Sunday is a disappointment. Iíve been a Tracy Morgan fan for years and heís the main reason that I wanted to see this movie. Granted, he has some funny lines in the movie, as does Katt Williams, but the rest falls flat. If you must see this film, simply fast forward until you see Morgan or Williams speaking.

First Sunday rises from the pew and onto DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is very sharp and clear, showing virtually no grain and no defects from the source material. The picture has a nice crispness to it and the image is never overly dark or too bright. The colors look fine, most notably Durell and LeeJohn's orange jumpsuits. I did note some video noise in some shots, but otherwise the transfer looks good. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects during the street scenes are good, and a police chase scene provides some nice surround action. The audio really comes to life with the introduction of the church, as the choir music fills the speakers.

The First Sunday DVD has a small selection of extras. We start with an AUDIO COMMENTARY by writer/director David E. Talbert. Credit must go to Talbert for the exuberance which he shows during his talk. He gives a lot of love to his cast and he pays special attention to the Los Angeles locations which are doubling for Baltimore. The DVD contains 14 DELETED SCENES which run about 35 minutes and can be viewed with commentary by Talbert. In actuality, six of these are simply extended versions of scenes which are in the film, and two are alternate takes of the same scene. Taking that into account, there isn't much new information here. The DVD contains both a GAG REEL (4 minutes) and OUTTAKES (5 minutes), which I always thought were the same thing, but the "outtakes" are more like deleted scenes. Both of these options feature more Katt Williams. "David E. Talbert's Camera Wrap Speech" (3 minutes) features the director offering gifts and praise to Ice Cube and Tracy Morgan on the last day of shooting. "Hood Robbin' with the First Sunday Cast and Crew" (16 minutes) is a making of featurette which offers an in-depth look at Talbert's life and abilities. We also hear from the cast and other filmmakers. The final extra is an option to watch the film with "The Almighty Version Fact Track" which is a pop-up video-like offering which gives information throughout the film.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has also brought First Sunday to Blu-ray Disc. Again, the film is letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 27 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. The picture has a very nice depth to it and the level of detail is very impressive. The colors are very good, especially those orange jumpsuits. The fleshtones look very realistic. I noted no compression artifacts or video noise here. The disc contains a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.0 Mbps. The audio here is OK, but never overwhelming. The only real action scene in the film, a car chase, provides some nice stereo effects, but no great surround or subwoofer action. Overall, the stereo separation is good and the dialogue is always clear. Actually, the most impressive scene is when the choir is performing. The music sounds great and it really fills the speakers. Given that this is a comedy, the audio is suitable, but it's not a great example of lossless sound.

The Blu-ray Disc contains all of the extras found on the DVD plus on additional bonus. "The Almighty Version" offers pop-up video factoids during the film relating to the cast, crew, and locations.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long