THE STORY – Mike, a high school kid with a crush, finally summons the courage to ask Kelsey out on a date. With a date but no wheels, Mike borrows money and gets duped into buying a clunker ’65 Chrysler. Although many a first date goes awry, Mike’s swiftly descends into a surreal misadventure that finds him inexplicably targeted by a pair of cops, a criminal gang, and a vengeful cat lady—with all roads leading to a showdown.
THE CAST – Tyson Brown, Shelby Duclos, Jesse Janzen, Nicole Berry, Samuel Ademola , Ryan Quinn Adams & Brandon Kraus
THE TEAM – Manuel Crosby & Darren Knapp (Directors/Writers)
THE RUNNING TIME – 103 Minutes
By Cody Dericks
The “unwittingly swept up in a criminal escapade” story has been done before, in both funny and severely unfunny ways. So does “First Date,” the new crime comedy, bring anything new to the formula? Not really, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have a good time riding along with it. Writer-director pair Manuel Crosby and Darren Knapp have constructed a caper of mistakes, mayhem, and misinformation that is both consistently funny and consistently low on energy. A handful of hilarious supporting performances bring further enjoyment to an overall admirable but frequently messy film.
Mike (an endearing Tyson Brown) has finally worked up the courage to ask his next-door neighbor Kelsey (Shelby Duclos) on a date. To try and impress her, he buys the cheapest car he can find at a moment’s notice: a beat-up ’65 Chrysler. Unfortunately, it turns out that the vehicle is being sought after by a gang of inept but violent criminals, and they don’t care who’s behind the wheel when they track it down. Bullets fly with as much frequency as the tossed-off jokes from the large ensemble of characters.
Said jokes are plentiful, no matter how stressful the situation may be. And the characters that deliver them are all reasonably well-developed, even if their entire personality is just based around a simple “look.” The uniformly excellent supporting performances help sell the specificity of these fictional creations. Particularly noteworthy are the actors playing a pair of droll, over-it-all cops (Nicole Berry and Samuel Ademola) and an unpredictable, wannabe intellectual crime lord (Jesse Janzen). Nearly the entire roster of actors, no matter the size of their role, is game to bring a zany, manic energy to their performance.
Unfortunately, energy is something that the rest of the film lacks. The pace is shockingly leisurely for a movie with such an over-the-top tone and insane series of plot points. The film seems content to take its time where instead it feels like, logically, it should hurry. Both the editing and the story’s general thrust are not what one might expect from this film. It all culminates in a shootout scene that lasts past the point of absurdity and finds itself in the realm of monotony. It must be noted that the severe lack of forward momentum feels extra odd in a movie that revolves around and features characters doing cocaine. There’s a troubling miscommunication between the film’s content and its execution.
I also took serious issue with the camerawork. It has a thrown-together quality that isn’t consistent enough to feel deliberate. There were a shocking number of strangely configured zooms and out-of-focus shots. It may be that this was intentional, but it doesn’t bring anything worthwhile to the film and instead only calls attention to itself.
“First Date” may have some distracting moments when it comes to filmmaking, but it shows a distinct and solid comedic voice from its creative pair from the start. If they can make their next movie with a bit more polish and just as much humor, I’ll be happy to check it out.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – This crime caper features a robust comedic voice and a cast of committed, zany supporting characters.
THE BAD – It has severe pacing issues and some messy cinematography.
THE FINAL SCORE – 6/10