Stand-up comic Jo Koy takes his Filipino family act to the big screen with strained results. Easter Sunday feels like a half-hour sitcom pulled like taffy into a feature film. The primary characters elicit initial minor chuckles as caricatures of nutty relatives. This shtick runs out of steam as the narrative plods long. Koy also delivers routines throughout with cameos by other famous comedians. Their improv riffing adds clunky weight instead of viable humor. Easter Sunday does get credit for its ethnic and cultural portrayals. The film isn’t successful but brings deserving light to a vastly underrepresented American subculture.
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Joe Valencia (Koy) races around Los Angeles juggling domestic affairs with career opportunities. He’s got an important audition for a network sitcom and parent-teacher conference at his son’s school. Junior’s (Brandon Wardell) grades are tanking in his senior year. He’s upset that his father doesn’t have time for him. Joe’s ex-wife (Carly Pope) and annoying new husband (Michael Weaver) constantly remind him of his poor parenting.
Joe’s mother, Susan (Lydia Gaston), invites him and Junior to her home in Daly City for Easter dinner. He forces Junior to go but keeps an eye on his cell phone. Joe’s agent (Jay Chandrasekhar) updates him on the sitcom’s status. In Daly City, Joe learns that his mother and her sister, Tita Teresa (Tia Carrere), are embroiled in a bitter argument. He’s also furious that his cousin, Eugene (Eugene Cordero), has stolen from a local gangster (Asif Ali) and squandered his loan for a taco truck. Joe must negotiate peace between his mom and aunt, save Eugene from a beatdown, deal with his agent, and bond with his son in one eventful day.
Too Much Latitude
Director Jay Chandrasekhar (Super Troopers, Beerfest), co-star and the leader of comedy troupe Broken Lizard, gives Koy too much latitude. He allows Koy and the other comedian players to run long with their various acts. Chandrasekhar then cuts together what’s perceived as the funniest bits. Some filmmakers, like Adam McKay, have this down to a science. He gives Will Ferrell room to improvise on set but trims the fat later. Chandrasekhar needed to bring a cleaver into the editing bay. Easter Sunday rambles when it should be leaner for better pacing.
The decision to add a gangster subplot was unnecessary. It just gives more comedian buddies, insert Jimmy O. Yang and Tiffany Haddish here, time to fluff up the plot; which might have worked if their spiel was funny. The script would have been better served by adding more details to the family’s squabbling. Those characters are rich enough to be further explored. The sitcom approach flounders because of a lack of depth.
I am unabashed fan of Filipino culture. Some gags, like the national pride and worship of boxer Manny Pacquiao, hit the mark. The importance of religion, delicious food, and unbreakable family bonds are the film’s highlights. Scenes exalting the yummy glory of halo-halo will drive audiences in droves to Jollibee. Easter Sunday has good intentions but a poor overall delivery.
Easter Sunday is a production of DreamWorks Pictures, Amblin Partners, and Rideback. It will be released theatrically on August 5th from Universal Pictures.
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