Movie Review: A Nightmare with laughs, “First Date”

Mike’s the kind of guy everybody walks over and everybody talks over. Like that manic driveway car salesman Dennis, who tries to sell him a ’65 Chrysler New Yorker when the kid came over to buy a practical, cheap Toyota.

“This things runs like a scalded dog! Two and a half tons…Baby you hit something in this? You don’t need an air bag, because THEY’RE gonna know it and you’re NOT.”

Mike needs the car because he has a “First Date,” and his self-absorbed parents wouldn’t think of changing their Vegas plans so that he can use the family van. “Condoms are in Dad’s night-stand,” and they’re off.

He got the date because motor-mouthed pal Brett barked “Can you just stop being YOU for TWO seconds?” and dialed Kelsey up and put Mike on the phone with her. He got the date because Kelsey took charge of the chat that shy, put-upon Mike wasn’t holding up his end on.

“How have we not talked since eight grade?” she wants to know.

But that car will keep hapless Mike (Tyson Brown) from Kelsey (Shelby Duclos) for much of the mayhem of an epic, not-quite-manic Southern California night. A lot of people want that New Yorker, and not just the older couple that spy it on the road and were previous owners.

“I redid the rear seat cover,” Thelma (Shari Schweigler) gushes. “The blood wouldn’t come out.”

The combo gang-that-couldn’t-shoot-straight/book club led by The Captain (Jesse Janzen) crave it.

Dennis the “salesman” is missing, so his trigger-happy wife (Leah Finity) figures if she finds it, she’ll find him.

And there are deadpan sheriff’s deputies (Nicole Berry, Samuel Ademola) Mike keeps stumbling into, saying “I know everybody says this but…It’s NOT how it looks!”

“First Date” is a beautifully-engineered farce that runs a lot like that dieseling, sputtering ’65 New Yorker. All the plot elements click, the performances have a nice snap and the dialogue can crackle. But the pacing is way off. A simple trim to 90-95 minutes would make it fly by like “a scalded dog.

What’s here gets laughs out of car crashes and shootouts, an errant Roomba and a lot of people who don’t know the difference between a “short story” and a “novella,” and which one Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” is.

It’s a Tarantino-twisted tale of drugs, gangs, deputies and dead people, and poor Mike is just there to react to it all. Dennis? He’ll chatter through every scene unless somebody tapes his mouth shut or puts a bullet in him.

“If I’m gonna die, I’d at least like it to be at the hands of somebody who knows how to pour piss out of a boot without READING the INSTRUCTIONS on the f—–g HEEL!”

Kelsey? Well, maybe Mike crushes on her because he’s seen her work the heavy bag, boxing in her garage. Kelsey’s a lot of things Mike isn’t, starting with “badass.” That could come in handy.

All things considered, kids, you could do a lot worse than “First Date” as a first date movie.

MPA Rating: unrated, bloody violence, drug abuse, profanity

Cast: Tyson Brown, Shelby Duclos, Jesse Janzen, Nicole Berry, Scott E. Noble, Samuel Ademola, Angela Barber

Credits: Scripted and directed by Manuel Crosby and Darren Knapp. A Magnolia/Magnet release.

Running time: 1:44

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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