Friday, July 02, 2021

First Date: It’s All About Teens, Cars, and Drugs

It is really hard to rebound after messing up a first date. However, shy teenaged Mike has a very good excuse: the drug dealers out to get him. It is nothing personal. They just want the large stash of cocaine hidden in the used car he bought. He is way too nice a guy for this sort of thing, but despite the bad start, he might just make some progress with his longtime crush in Manuel Crosby & Darren Knapp’s First Date, which opens today in theaters and on-demand.

When they were younger, Mike and Kelsey were friends. Now he assumes she is out of his league. Yet, when his best friend Brett tricks him into asking her out, Kelsey says yes. The problem is Mike has no wheels. Again, Brett “helps” out by finding a used car. Unfortunately, the shady Dennis pulls a bait-and-switch, but Mike buys the ’65 Chrysler beater anyway, because it has an 8-track player. We can follow that logic.

It turns out that is not the only extra the car is tricked out with. Unbeknownst to Mike, it also carries a considerable cache of drugs. After realizing there is something wrong with his jalopy, Mike returns to confront the seller, but he finds the place ransacked, Dennis mysteriously missing, and his high-strung wife on a rampage. This ill-fated encounter makes Mike hopelessly late to pick-up Kelsey, but eventually she is pulled into the bedlam too.

First Date traffics in a lot of teen movie cliches and stereotypes, but it does so in a smart way. It also features a more inclusive cast than some of the vintage 1980s teen comedies that probably inspired it. However, the escalating body count and violent edge makes the film feel decidedly contemporary (especially if you live in the current war zones known as New York and Los Angeles). No, this is not your slightly older brother’s Risky Business or Adventures in Baby Sitting.

Tyson Brown and Shelby Duclos are easy to root for, as Mike and Kelsey, but they do not generate a lot of sparks together. Jesse Janzen looks somewhat unremarkable as the gang leader referred to as the “Captain,” but he gets most of the film’s laughs with his caustic performance and take-no-prisoners delivery. Nicole Berry and Samuel Ademola also make strong impressions as two rather problematic cops. This is definitely a villains’ showcase that takes perverse delight in tormenting the poor luckless good guy.

First Date
is not high art, but Crosby & Knapp keep it snappy. The vibe inspires nostalgia for viewers twice as old as the cast, but seriously, Gen X is a terrific demographic to target. This isn’t exactly brilliant cinema, but the breakneck energy carries it through. Recommended for viewers who are angsty teens at heart, First Date releases today (7/2) theatrically and on VOD platforms.