A shy teen gets in big trouble while trying to go out with his acerbic neighbor. First Date has the pieces of a zany adolescent action comedy, but never puts the puzzle together in an interesting way. Amateurish direction and a significant lack of chemistry from the young leads doom the film from the start. The goofy supporting characters add some humor, just not enough to rescue the sluggish pacing. First Date unfortunately strikes out before even reaching first base.
The film opens with the extremely timid Mike (Tyson Brown) and his obnoxious best friend, Brett (Josh Fesler), riding bicycles in their suburban California neighborhood. Mike sees the fetching Kelsey (Shelby Duclos) working out in her family’s garage. They share a sweet lingering gaze before Mike is sideswiped by Chet (Brandon Kraus), a popular jock with a Porsche. Humiliated and dejected, Mike wheels home as a concerned Kelsey looks on.
Brett stole Kelsey’s number from a classmate’s phone. He convinces Mike to call her. After a bumbling interaction, Mike actually gets Kelsey to agree to a date that night. But Mike’s parents are taking their minivan to Las Vegas. They’re overjoyed that their son has a date. Reminding him that condoms are in a drawer, “We don’t want grandchildren yet.” Brett convinces Mike to look at a used car he found online. Mike takes his life savings, and is quickly swindled into buying a rusted, 70s Chrysler New Yorker from the smooth-talking Dennis (Scott E. Noble). As Mike sputters on to pick up Kelsey, he could never imagine the insane danger to come. Several criminal groups will stop at nothing to retrieve the car.
The mystery at the core of the film isn’t that hard to figure out. Willing suspension of disbelief allows a naive teen to buy a broken down clunker without looking in the trunk. It’s pretty obvious what the baddies are looking for. Where the film really goes south is Mike’s constant ineptitude in dealing with an unending stream of bizarre occurrences. The filmmakers try to build up Mike’s courage for third act heroics. It doesn’t work because he’s too much of a foolish noodle. The dumbest, wimpiest kid would have acted smarter in each contrived situation.
Directors/co-writers Manuel Crosby and Darren Knapp do a poor job of establishing rapport between their lead actors. Mike and Kelsey actually have little screen time together. So those moments have to be magical for the audience to root for the couple. They mix like oil and water. It’s unclear why Kelsey has any interest in Mike. Also, Crosby and Knapp’s camera work leaves a lot to be desired. They overuse reaction shots and tend to linger for too long in a scene. The result is a painfully slow first act that the film never recovers from.
First Date is not a total bust. The supporting ensemble offers a few chuckles. They are the saving grace of the film. Jesse Janzen co-stars as “The Captain”, whose gang of idiots are trying to find the car. The rub is that they’re also in a book club. And argue Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” while hunting the hapless Mike. The film might have been more entertaining focusing on that angle versus the boring teens. First Date is a production of Visit Films and Cinexus Pictures. It will have a concurrent theatrical and Apple TV+ premiere on July 2nd from Magnet Releasing.
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