First Sunday (PG-13)

Comedy 96 January 11, 2008
By Nick Pinkerton
LeeJohn (Tracy Morgan) is the screwup schemer. Durell (Ice Cube) is the should-know-better buddy. The latest very awful idea: breaking into a neighborhood church to rob the fundraising pot so that Durell can keep his kid. (It's complicated.) As it happens, the board is meeting that night, the choir has come in for practice, the money turns up missing, and a standoff-cum-whodunit is now under way. Prolific playwright and author David E. Talbert's first feature starts off as straight ghetto capering, then evolves into an inner-city morality play as a night up-close with church folk offers a lesson in Christian virtue and responsibility. At first, the movie is overanxious, trying too hard to squeeze out laughs, pump up the soundtrack and ingratiate the audience — and the straining is abrasive. But once Talbert gets distracted with keeping the plot clunking along, the comedy eases into relaxed sideline banter. Trailers hard-sell Katt Williams' supporting bit as a fey choir director, but Morgan butchers me every time with that overemphatic delivery thing that makes incidental lines multiplex-leveling funny. ("Let’s take flight!") His couple of earnest dramatic scenes are, I should add, more honestly felt than anything in The Great Debaters.
David E Talbert Ice Cube, Katt Williams, Tracy Morgan, Loretta Devine, Michael Beach, Keith David, Regina Hall, Malinda Williams, Chi McBride, Clifton Powell David E Talbert Matt Alvarez, Ice Cube, David McIlvain, Julie Silverman, David E. Talbert, Julie Yorn Screen Gems