Jo Koy is getting ready for her close-up, and it’s time for the same thing to happen to Filipino-Americans.
Koy’s “Easter Sunday” doesn’t recreate the clashing culture yuks. It’s formulaic and mostly safe, with a winning star turn and some sharp support work. It’s also immediately refreshing by focusing on a culture that mainstream movies avoid.
If only “Easter Sunday” didn’t have many stops along the way.
Koy plays Joe Valencia, a popular comic with a luxury beer commercial. It’s one of the running bits that the movie script makes good use of.
Our Joe is about to land his dream gig on a sitcom, but the showrunners want him to rely on his ethnicity to strike a deal. It’s a joke that speaks to the limited imagination of Hollywood, but no lecture is based on that narrow thinking.
Meanwhile, Easter dinner is drawing near, and Joe’s big and noisy family expects him to show up. He’ll have to navigate the demands of his overbearing mother (Lydia Gaston, snake), his kind-hearted cousin (Eugene Cordero) and his own son (Brandon Wardell), whose rage Angry teen constantly collides with Joe’s dreams.
So far, so familiar.
The first few minutes of the movie are enough to make you wonder why they gathered for “Easter Sunday” in the first place. The story even shows Joe doing a stand-up monologue in the church, an apparent attempt to bring the comic’s basis to the table.
Except for the jokes that weren’t as funny as the ones Koy used to share on stage. How can it happen?
The comedian’s quiet charisma slowly kicks in, and the script is sharp enough to produce some laughs and insight.
The film is celebratory but still allows for sharp cultural works. Joe’s (Tia Carrere) mother and aunt bickering over food and family loyalty is hardly anything positive, but it’s something other cultures can identify with, no doubt. .
“Easter Sunday” received strong support, from director Jay Chandrasekhar as Joe’s agent to the film’s heavyweight, Dev Deluxe (Asif Ali). Dueling models also left their mark, as did Cordero’s “hype truck” aspirations.
The film reluctantly expands on a minor crime plot that doesn’t show these lovable characters in the best light. It also takes us away from the cultural insights and humor that mark the film’s obvious strengths.
Tiffany Haddish’s appearance as Joe’s old flame feels like a breakthrough, not a heist.
The film’s language is tame by most standards, but a rare F-bomb and other savory stuff seems unnecessary for the audience in its sights. It is Filipino families eager to see their children on the final screen and others willing to accept them as their own.
Hit or miss: “Easter Sunday” wasn’t good enough to make star Jo Koy a movie star, but he acquitted well enough to earn another crack.