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Sundance Film Festival Review: ‘First Date’ is a Fun Action-Comedy Throwback

A first date gone wrong can be the premise for just about any Sundance Film Festival offering imaginable. Comedy, drama, thriller, you name it. Luckily, the on the nose titled First Date has a little bit of everything, offering up a mixture that appeals to almost any sensibility. The movie is having fun as it skips around, genre wise, almost always winking at the audience. In lesser hands, it might not have worked, but the young and hungry creative team is more than up to the challenge. It may not be narratively ambitious, but in mixing tones, it offers up something a little bit different than most of what the festival presents these days.

First Date has a vibe that evokes Adventures in Babysitting, among other works. Even when there’s danger, there’s still fun to be had. To be sure, it’s silly, but the intensity is admirably established. It’s never surreal, which could have been easy. In doing so, it’s part of what sets this one apart.

First Date

Mike (Tyson Brown) is desperate to go out on a date with Kelsey (Shelby Duclos). Convinced by his friend to ask her out, she accepts, surprising Mike. There’s only one problem…he doesn’t have a car. Harangued into borrowing some money, he ends up answering a sketchy ad and buying a clunker of a ’65 Chrysler. Still, he has a car. Of course, no sooner does he drive it home than a pair of cops (Samuel Ademola and Nicole Berry). What seems like a minor inconvenience is only the start of his problems tonight. Soon, he’ll be caught up with a gang, a woman on a quest for vengeance, and more. Plus, he’s accidentally standing up Kelsey in the process.

Caught in something potentially deadly, Mike kind of stumbles from one situation to the next. Eventually linking up with Kelsey, their chemistry is immediate, but also puts them both in even more danger. Can they make it out of the worst date in history with their lives? We sure hope so, since they’re a potential couple that deserves a second date.

First Date

Both Tyson Brown and Shelby Duclos make real impressions here. The whole cast is having fun, including Samuel Ademola, Nicole Berry, Jake Howard, Scott E. Noble, and more (Berry especially has her moments), but Brown and Duclos are the highlights. The former makes Mike a reluctant participant in everything, while the latter makes Kelsey the smartest and wittiest person in the room Together, they’re quite the pairing.

Filmmakers Manuel Crosby and Darren Knapp essentially merge the teen comedy with the action/thriller. Somehow, it never seems as messy as it should. Some of the humor falls a little flat, while things like gunfights are kind of rote, but the tone works. It all feels like it makes sense, and that’s where the success resides. Crosby and Knapp tapped into something fun, plain and simple.

First Date is a lot of fun. It may not be much more than that, but what it sets out to do, it does well. Sundance used to be chock-full of this sort of cinema. Now? Not so much, so appreciate this one for what it is. If you want a hybrid work that leaves you with a smile, this is one to look out for!

SCORE: ★★★

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Written by Joey Magidson

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