by Corey Hall
On the Emmy-winning sitcom 30 Rock, Tracy Morgan plays a TV star who spends his summers shooting idiotic junk cinema with such titles as Who Dat Ninja. You could say that Morgan's appearance in First Sunday is a case of life imitating art. Wait. That'd mean First Sunday is a piece of art. It isn't. Not at all. But it is another extension of Ice Cube's odd career as a comedic actor. It also serves as compelling evidence that just about anything funny that's ever come out of Morgan's mouth was likely written by Tina Fey. Sadly, she's not on hand to spice up the dialogue here, which was written and directed by prolific urban theater powerhouse David E. Talbert in his feature film debut.
Unfortunately, he's still playing to the back of the house, with a broad and hectic style of comedy that'd go over better with an intermission — or a smoke break.
Surly Cube and goofy Tracy are best pals Durell and Lee John, dimwit bumblers who want to go legit but can't quite shake their petty crime habits, like boosting flat-screens from their jobs at an AV store. Their attempts to make a quick buck fencing stolen wheelchairs only gets them in even deeper with the loan sharks, and puts Durell in danger of losing contact with his son.
So what better way to settle the matter than with more crime? The pair's bright idea is to knock off the neighborhood church, which is in a blighted section of Baltimore. Trouble is, they can't just snatch the collection plate and run; it seems the choir, the pastor and a host of parishioners are still hanging around the pews in the middle of the night. Also, it appears that someone else has already raided the church's kitty. Hence, a prolonged whodunit and hostage standoff ensues.
With a premise this packed with comedy potential, it's hard to see where this picture could go wrong. But it does; it plods along for what seems like forever, slogging from lame gags to even lamer sermonizing, offered up by stock black characters seemingly lifted from an episode of Amen. There's the snooty pastor (Chi McBride), his shapely daughter (Malinda Williams), the sneaky deacon and the brassy secretary (Loretta Devine), all ready to shuck and jive.
While everyone else looks for the stolen loot, Katt Williams — the sharply dressed, fast-talking and embarrassingly swishy choir director — steals what's left of the show. As he camps it up, and it's impossible not to giggle at his hyper-prissy antics, you're so starved for amusement you'll be absolved for laughing at such a ridiculous stereotype.