DirectedBy: Jay Chandrasekhar
Written By: Ken Cheng and Kate Angelo
Run-time: 96 minutes
MPA Rating: PG-13 for some strong language and suggestive references
Jo Koy –Joe Valencia
eugene lamb – Eugene Valencia
Brandon Wardell – Junior
Lydia Gaston – Susan Vaelencia
Tia Carrère – Aunt Teresa
Eve Noble – Felling
Elena Juatco – Regina Valencia
Asif Ali –Dev Deluxe
Jimmy O. Yang – Marvin Ma
Tiffany Haddish – Vanessa
Jay Chandrasekhar – Nick
Lou Diamond Phillips – Himself
Comedian Jo Koy lands his first major film role in the new family comedy easter sunday. In a semi-biographical take, Jo Koy explores the foibles and strengths of his Filipino family as they struggle through a dysfunctional Easter Sunday dinner.
Koy stars as Joe Valencia, a down-on-his-luck comedian and struggling actor who is looking for his big Hollywood break. He is a single father to the teenage Junior (Wardell), who is almost estranged from his dad who is constantly hustling to find work in Los Angeles. Joe is close to landing a series regular role in a big sitcom project, but he is conflicted about the project because network executives want him to use a more stereotypical Filipino accent for his character. Amid his professional strife from him, Joe is persuaded to return to his hometown of Daly City for his mother’s (Gaston) Easter Sunday dinner. He brings Junior along in the hopes of repairing some of the emotional distance that has grown between them.
Not long after arriving, Joe realizes that his cousin Eugene (Cordero) has gotten involved with a shady individual, Dev Deluxe (Ali), to help fund Eugene’s Hypetruck endeavor. Dev Deluxe comes calling to collect on Eugene’s debts, drawing Joe into the chaos. Not to mention, Joe’s mother Susan is embroiled in a cold war with her sister, Teresa (Carrere). So Joe has to find a way to make peace with his family, survive the family dinner, and hopefully finally land a decent acting role.
Jo Koy’s comedic material provides easter sunday with a genuine, true-to-life quality. While it is not a strict 1: 1 interpretation, the character of Joe Valencia was modeled after Jo Koy’s personal life, experiences, and relationships de ella. The moments of family dysfunction and discord found throughout the film are surprisingly poignant and work just as well as the comedy. Those are the moments when easter sunday feels real.
easter sunday is backed up by a talented, humorous supporting cast. Jimmy O. Yang has a small, yet funny, role as an old acquaintance and local rare goods dealer named Marvin Ma. Jay Chandrasekhar, who also directs the film, is fun as Joe’s goofy agent. Tiffany Haddish is amusing as Joe’s old flame, Vanessa. Joe’s family members all have solid, believable energy and chemistry with each other. Not to mention, it is very nice to see Tia Carrere in a movie again. Lou Diamond Phillips appears in a fun, scene-stealing moment.
As a director, Jay Chandrasekhar is a talented filmmaker who has done good work in the past. Here he does solid work focusing on Jo Koy’s particular brand of humor. Most of the humor is situational and plot-based rather than going for cheap, gross-out laughs. Sometimes sophomoric humor can work well, but it must be executed in a certain way to work effectively.
Some of easter sunday‘s best laughs come from little, visual gags. After Dev Deluxe threatens Joe in the park at a family luncheon, one of Deluxe’s underlings rides off on a motorized scooter, trailing well behind his cohorts in their opulent hotrods.
easter sunday‘s overall plot structure is very light. Even at only 96 minutes, the movie is padded and unfolds predictably. Junior’s subplot as he enjoys a quick, whirlwind romance with a local girl he meets during the trip, Tala (Nobility), comes off as shoehorned. The structural narrative could have used more breathing room and made this an Easter Weekend rather than an Easter Sunday.
With the multiple subplots, sometimes Joe’s dynamic with his sister and his mother gets lost in the plot. The film moves from Joe trying to land his acting role to making it home for Sunday dinner and trying to fix Eugene’s mess. It would have been nice to see an exploration of Joe’s different familial relationships, since they usually produced the best parts of his standup acts and the more genuinely emotional points in the film.
Despite its flaws, easter sunday is a good, surprisingly wholesome family comedy with a solid, charming cast and a positive, uplifting message about a family overcoming their differences and coming together. Just about everyone can relate to Joy Koy’s family, the familial relationships, dynamics, and disagreements.