Plot: What’s it about?
First Sunday is your typical January Hollywood throwaway movie fare, no doubt about it. It has all the tell-tale signs of a completely forgettable film that really meandered its way haphazardly into movie theaters with as little fanfare as it left. The plot, paper-thin as it is, centers around two friends (Ice Cube and Tracy Morgan) who decide to rob a neighborhood church one night, each for his own reasons. As the night progresses, they both have second thoughts when faced with a ridiculously, implausibly understanding and philosophical group of church member hostages. Theres also a side story involving a Deacon who wants to move the church to a new location, over the protests of the congregation. But really, who cares? This movie isnt about that at all, and we know that right from the first frame. What this movie is about is getting Cube and Morgans Durell and LeeJohn into a sticky situation and letting idiocy ensue.
And ensue it doessort of. The thing that surprised me the most about this comedy was how unfunny it was. Thats not to say I was expecting a great film far from it. I just expected something a bit more fun and uproarious than what First Sunday has to offer. The films best moments are when it takes itself seriously (which it does quite a bit more often than I expected), but unfortunately, when it tries for slapstick or camp instead, it undermines any credibility those scenes have on their own. Its a problem that is hard to overcome. And while I feel that this film does indeed have a heart (which is why Im not going to entirely pan it here without remorse), it gets repeatedly buried by the expectations of the farce comedy genre. And sadly, its on that very level that the film feels hollow and by-the-numbers. Its a shame, because theres a genuine chemistry between the two leads, and Katt Williams can be quite disarming as a choir director and steals every scene hes in. Also, the story, as contrived as it (certainly) is, does a decent job of making you forget that youre watching that throwaway January flick.
I was surprised to find that First Sunday had fared quite so horribly with other critics as I prepared my own review. While this is certainly not a masterpiece, I also didnt feel that Id completely wasted an hour and a half when it was over. This is trite entertainment to be sure, but then what else could anyone be expecting who sits down to watch this? And as trite entertainment goes, you could do a lot worse on a rainy dayat least when everything else is rented out. I think that critics all too often feel that they have some overriding obligation to trash a film that has already been universally trashed. And lets face it: a largely unfunny comedy starring Ice Cube is just material ripe for being trashed. On the other hand, I can say without shame that I actually enjoyed the film more than I thought I would. It wasnt great, but it does have a heart, even if it cant single-handed overcome the limitations of what it is. For those of you who actually care enough about this title to have read this entire review, Id recommend the film for a rental. Youre probably the type of audience a film like this needs before being retired to the $5.88 bin at Wal-Mart.
Video: How does it look?
I was quite pleasantly surprised by the video presentation of First Sunday. This is a very vibrant and crisp transfer that should not let anyone down. The AVC-MPEG 4 encode produces an extremely well-detailed, film-like look. I was actually very impressed by the quality of the exterior and daylight shots in the film which can be very striking at times. Blacks are very deep and pure and show no signs of crush in darker scenes, which reveal a very high level of minute detail. An extremely light layer of film grain is evident throughout and is not distracting in the slightest. Colors appeared accurate, if veering to the red side of the spectrum occasionally. If I had to find something to complain about, its that the contrast in the more dimly-lit scenes at times appeared a bit low, lending to a slightly flatter-looking image than you might expect from a reference release. All in all, though, this is an excellent transfer, even if its not one that highlights images that one would typically associate with great-looking HD material. English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Thai, Arabic, and Dutch subtitles are available.
Audio: How does it sound?
The Dolby TrueHD track included on this release isnt particularly amazing, though I, as with most things on this Blu-ray, I found a bit more here than I was expecting. When the music kicks into high gear, so does the aggressiveness of this otherwise reserved mix. Surrounds are employed a bit more than I would have anticipated, even if the more talky segments have an inherently front-heavy presence. Bass response is a bit tighter than Id expected and transparency across channels is generally excellent. Again, as with the video, the audio presentation here is better than I would have hoped for a title like this, and it should greatly please fans of the film. French and Portuguese TrueHD tracks are also included, as are Spanish and Thai Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks.
Supplements: What are the extras?
On the extras front, first up we have a very enthusiastic commentary by writer/director David E. Talbert. While hes obviously very excited about discussing this film and very rarely lapses into silence, the track is generally a bit boring. Most of Talberts comments seem relegated to recanting the onscreen action rather than giving us any real insight into the film though whether there was much insight to be had is admittedly arguable. Also included here are a number of extended and deleted scenes (with optional commentary) which contain nothing of real substance and are included, I suspect, simply to pad the release. A fairly standard 15-minute making-of featurette is also included which is primarily a talking heads montage that adds little value. A very short camera wrap speech is here, as well as a gag reel and an outtakes section thats ultimately much funnier than anything in the finished film.