What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this movie -- which stars popular comic actors Ice Cube and Tracy Morgan -- starts out as a heist comedy but ends up more like a Tyler Perry film, with a sentimental, moral message about taking responsibility and never giving up hope. Language is milder than in other PG-13 films but is present (including "ass" and "s--t"), as is the central violent act of taking a group of parishioners hostage in a church. There's no outright sex, but a character does overhear some shenanigans in a massage parlor, and a man receives a sensual massage from what turns out to be a cross-dresser.
What's the story?
The center of this urban comedy is Durell (Ice Cube), a Baltimore handyman who's out of work -- and luck -- thanks to his clueless best friend, LeeJohn (Tracy Morgan). After being sentenced to 5,000 hours of community service, the men find themselves in need of fast cash: Durell's girlfriend needs nearly $18,000 to pay her salon's rent, or she'll take off with their son for another state, and LeeJohn owes $12,000 to a group of Caribbean gangsters. The answer to their prayers? Robbing an inner-city church with unbelievably generous members. In just the one Sunday the men attend, the church raises more than $30,000 -- conveniently perfect for the two petty criminals. But they also end up taking a group of choir members -- as well as the church's board of directors -- hostage.
Is it any good?
Ice Cube is one of the few rappers-turned-actors who's proven his acting chops and is impressively adept at both comedy and drama (see Three Kings). But he, Tracy Morgan, and the talented supporting cast can't catapult this film out of the realm of mediocrity. The movie's steady stream of laughs, mostly courtesy of Morgan, diminishes a bit once the church heist goes wrong. Character actors Loretta Devine and Chi McBride are almost too good for their parts as the church's loving secretary and wise pastor. And stand-up comic Katt Williams steals many a scene as the cowardly and flamboyant choir director.
The hostage situation culminates with a predictable amount of sermonizing and repentance, but it's all a bit too easy considering that the men weren't exactly cold, hard murderers -- just stupid and unlucky. Despite jokes that are funny enough, newcomer director David E. Talbert mishandles the plot -- why the men needed the money was never all that compelling -- and the timing. He also squanders the talent that actors like McBride, Devine, and Keith David bring to the ensemble. But if you don't mind a pat, sentimental ending, you might be entertained.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the movie's messages. What lessons do you think audiences are intended to take away? Are they believable? Why or why not? Kids: Did you notice any stereotypes in the film? What were they?