Making the Grades
Durell (Ice Cube) and LeeJohn (Tracy Morgan) are two buddies from a rough Baltimore neighborhood who work at a repair shop. When LeeJohn is caught stealing a TV from his employer, both men are fired and sent to the slammer. But after they get out of jail, they discover just how hard it is to find a job with a criminal record.
Following one poor decision with another, they get involved with a black market con artist and end up in front of Judge Bennett Galloway (Keith David) one more time. Sentencing the men to community service, he sets them free in the hopes they'll be reformed.
However, Durell's ex-wife (Regina Hall) is planning a move to Atlanta with their son (C. J. Sanders) unless Durell can come up with $17,000 to pay the rent at her beauty salon. Though the ex-con has a lengthy list of bad behaviors, he is still a concerned dad---showing up every morning to walk his boy to the bus stop. Promising his son that they won't be separated, the jobless father looks for a way to make some instant cash.
The answer seems heaven-sent when Durell and LeeJohn follow the amply endowed Tianna Mitchell (Malinda Williams) into a church service. Mistaking communion for a snack, the two men wolf down the religious emblems as Pastor Mitchell (Chi McBride) announces the congregation's latest fund-raising achievement. And the thought of all those donated dollars sitting in the church safe sparks a devilish idea in the minds of the convicts.
Sneaking into the building after hours, they plan to bequeath the funds to themselves. But the plot is foiled when they discover the members of the financial committee and the choir director (Katt Williams) still in the building. Now saddled with hostages, the gun-wielding bandits' quick hit-and-run scheme takes an even more unexpected turn when the group of parishioners begins practicing their Christian kindness on the two thieves.
Unfortunately, Momma T's (Olivia Cole) rebuke for swearing in the sanctuary will come far too late for most families who will have already endured frequent profanities and a sexual hand gesture. Other content that may cause righteous indignation includes some exposed skin, sensual sounds in a massage parlor and a cross-dressing masseuse. Yet the real issue seems to be with the two men who blame their lot in life on their circumstances (undetermined paternity, foster care, and poverty) rather than taking responsibility. Pointing the finger at others every time they make a bad choice, these two felons sink from petty larceny to armed robbery.
The film makes a redemptive effort by trying to address social concerns like broken homes, fatherless children, and the lack of employment. Yet while messages of forgiveness, hope for second chances and taking care of your own might be family friendly, this film likely won't be the perfect Sunday outing.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about First Sunday.
How does Durell’s attitude change after Momma T’s lecture? What does he learn about taking responsibility?
What kind of example do the parishioners set for the thieves? How do their actions affect Durell and LeeJohn?
What social issues does this film raise? Are there solutions for these problems? If so, who needs to become involved in solving them?