Crime Doesn’t Pray
Release Date: January 11, 2008
Starring: Ice Cube, Tracey Morgan, Chi
McBride, Loretta Divine,
Regina Hall, Katt Williams,
Michael Beach, Keith David,
Malinda Williams, Olivia Cole,
Clifton James, Nicholas
Turturro, and C. J. Sanders
Audience: Teenagers and adults
Runtime: 96 minutes
Distributor: Screen Gems/Sony Pictures
Director: David E. Talbert
Executive Producer: Stacy Kolker Cramer, Neil
Machlis, Ronald Muhammed, and
Producer: David E. Talbert, David
NcIlvain, Tim Story, Ice Cube,
and Matt Alvarez
Writer: David E. Talbert
Address Comments To:Michael Lynton, Chairman/CEO
Amy Pascal, Chairman - Motion Picture Group
Sony Pictures Entertainment
(Columbia Pictures/TriStar/Screen Gems/Provident)
10202 West Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232-3195
Phone: (310) 244-4000
Fax: (310) 244-2626
Web Page: www.spe.sony.com/
The movie opens with Durell (Ice Cube) and LeeJohn (Tracy Morgan), two incompetent petty criminals and childhood friends, getting 5,000 hours of forced community service from a judge. Durell learns that his ex-girlfriend plans to move to another state with their beloved son: unless he can get her $17,000 to pay off a debt. At the same time, LeeJohn gets them into trouble with some Jamaican gangsters when they lose a van full of stolen wheelchairs.
Durell and LeeJohn come up with a desperate scheme to get the money: rob their neighborhood Christian church. They fumble their way through the break-in, only to discover that someone has already beaten them to the punch – someone in the church. In order to get their hands on the money, Durell and LeeJohn must spend the night in the presence of the Lord and His followers to find their rival and take off with the money. The result is a volatile combination that just might put Durell and LeeJohn unexpectedly on the road to redemption and faith.
There are some strong positive qualities to first-time screenwriter/director David E. Talbert’s FIRST SUNDAY, but it is not quite as entertaining as Tyler Perry’s first and latest comedies, DIARY OF A MAD BLACK WOMAN and WHY DID I GET MARRIED? It also isn’t as entertaining as Queen Latifah’s excellent redemptive comedy, LAST HOLIDAY, one of MOVIEGUIDE®’s Award winners in 2006.
First, the movie is not as funny as it desperately tries to be. Second, the plot and characters are a bit forced and predictable. Also, Tracy Morgan can be very funny, but he lays on the goofy, stupid, mush-mouthed friend bit a little too thickly here. Thus, many viewers may wonder why in the world the smarter, more articulate Durell is hanging around this loser. Basically, however, Durell seems to be a man with a chip on his shoulder.
Another problem is that the moral and spiritual influence of the church members on Durell and LeeJohn comes a little bit late in the story. The pastor, played by Chi McBride, is a solid, positive character, but the movie keeps him as a suspect in the church theft until later to keep some suspense going.
Finally, FIRST SUNDAY contains many obscenities, some light sexual references and a marijuana joke. Thus, overall, MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution, but in a lighter sense rather than a stronger one.
An interesting sidelight to the movie deals with one of its publicity taglines, “Crime doesn’t pray.” One of the most positive elements in FIRST SUNDAY is its clear sense throughout most of the story that Durell and LeeJohn are getting into trouble, leading a life of crime and ruining their lives because of their secular lifestyles and attitudes, and even their antipathy and cynicism against Christianity. Like all institutions involving sinful humans, the Church has some thieves and hypocrites in it. Even so, the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Bible, which is God’s Word, are opposed to sins like stealing, lust, envy, greed, and deceit. Crime, indeed, doesn’t pray, and neither do unrepentant criminals and sinners.
Eventually, the two protagonists in FIRST SUNDAY repent and become blessed by the God of Second Chances, and His Church, with forgiveness, joy and the beginnings of a better life. Now, there’s a positive, inspiring message that more Hollywood movies should endorse.
FIRST SUNDAY is a bit uneven. It’s not as funny as it desperately wants to be. Also, the plot and characters are sometimes forced and predictable. Finally, despite its strong Christian worldview, which leads to kindness, repentance, forgiveness, and faith, it contains many obscenities and some off-color moments, including a drug joke. Thus, MOVIEGUIDE® advises stronger, extreme caution rather than light caution.