Home | Review Archive | The Bucket 'Blog | Screening Log | Film Festival Coverage | Contact Danny


  First Sunday

Starring: Ice Cube, Tracy Morgan, Katt Williams, Regina Hall, Malinda Williams

Directed by: David E. Talbert

Produced by: Tim Story, David McIlvain, Matt Alvarez, Ice Cube, David E. Talbert

Written by: David E. Talbert

Distributor: Sony Pictures Releasing


     The realization of the incredible success of the movies of Tyler Perry has led filmmakers and movie-studios alike to pursue a host of projects targeted at Christian, African-American audiences. This demographic—one that seemingly rarely ever shows up to the Movies on most weekends—now has the reputation of supporting works that are specifically made for them. Perry’s Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Madea’s Family Reunion, and Why Did I Get Married? were all successes because of smart, restricted marketing, as were the similarly-advertised This Christmas and Stomp the Yard. This success not only proves the power of smart promotion, but also the wondrous capacity of the medium of film to connect with virtually anyone so long as it is speaking directly to them. Perry and his contemporary’s careers should be lauded, if only for the simple fact that they have inspired a group of non-moviegoers to patronize American cinemas in large numbers.

     David E. Talbert’s First Sunday is the latest film to capitalize on the success of Perry, but it feels cheap and exploitative where Perry is genuine and creative. Perry employs black, Christian characters to communicate themes that allow viewers of the same background to relate and better understand their own roots. Talbert, on the other hand, seems only to be doing this in order to sell his picture to a group of people that have shown a notable thirst for works like it. He sets First Sunday in a Baltimore ghetto not to vocalize any real commentary about what it means to be black in America, but to gain the trivial sympathies of an understanding audience. Sure, there are some themes regarding the Church’s importance in African-American Life and the lack of communal-inspiration to rebuild urban-areas in America to be found in First Sunday, but these have all been tackled before in better films. This motion-picture is thoroughly inept.

     Part of the problem with First Sunday is that its attempts at humor are far too shallow to support any substantial themes. After all, this is a movie that is about two guys who seek to rob a church. They are Durell (Ice Cube) and LeeJohn (Tracy Morgan), and they make said plan out of a desperate need for quick-cash. After being convicted of felonies, the two cannot find anyone who is willing to employ them, so LeeJohn sets up a shady gig where they are required to deliver ten $1,200 wheelchairs for a thug. Matters go awry, and the two end up losing the merchandise before they reach the provided destination, putting them in deep debt. Meanwhile, Durell’s baby’s momma Omunique (Regina Hall) is being forced to close down her salon because she can’t come up with $17,000 of annual-rent. This is a problem for Durell because it means Omunique and their son, Durell Jr. (C.J. Sanders), will have to move in with her family in Atlanta. Unless he can come up with the $17,000 himself, Durell likely won’t see Durell Jr. for years.

     The church that Durell and LeeJohn choose to rob contains a safe full of donations, making it the perfect place for them to nab a lot of money in a small amount of time. Of course, things hardly go according to plan. On the night that they chose to rob the joint, the pair unexpectedly finds about a dozen people inside: the members of the church board and the practicing church choir. This causes Durell and LeeJohn to, against their better judgment, take hostages and whip out guns. And that’s only the beginning; many more problems arise, many of which concern not the two robbers, but the church’s leaders themselves.

    The bulk of First Sunday follows Durell and LeeJohn as they hold the church up, making the film a rather one-note experience. As the two mindlessly engage in slapstick-comedy and expose themselves to heavy-handed morality-lessons about their wrongdoings, the movie feels as though it is merely killing time. It becomes increasingly-obvious to the viewer that Talbert’s choice to spend so much of the duration in the church did not stem from creativity, but from the desire to keep the budget on the movie low. In fact, the entire experience seems like a greedy experiment on studio Sony Pictures’ behalf, trying to figure out how much box-office they could take in with a work of as little substance as possible. Talbert doesn’t seem to be concerned with anything but efficiency, taking a predictable story and simply making sure that it is executed competently (inspiration isn’t a big issue here). Additionally, in order to ensure that First Sunday was sellable, the financers splurged on securing big-stars Ice Cube and Tracy Morgan for the lead roles. Not surprisingly, the pair’s notable charisma is the only thing that is entirely welcome in this mindless dud of a film.

     First Sunday will likely do every bit as well as Sony hopes; it has been ingeniously marketed in just the same way as Perry’s efforts. Still, I find myself greatly dismayed by the unfortunate fact that the film is exposing a demographic that rarely goes to the Movies to such mediocre work. One thing’s for sure: if I only saw five pictures a year, I’d be pissed off if this were one of them.

-Danny Baldwin, Bucket Reviews

Review Published on: 1.12.2008

Screened on: 1.11.2008 at the Edwards San Marcos 18 in San Marcos, CA.


First Sunday is rated PG-13 and runs 98 minutes.

Back to Home