Easter Sunday, 2022.
Directed by Jay Chandrasekhar.
Starring Jo Koy, Tia Carrere, Lydia Gaston, Eugene Cordero, Brandon Wardell, Jimmy O. Yang, Tiffany Haddish, Lou Diamond Phillips, Asif Ali, Eva Noblezada, Michael Weaver, Dustin Ybarra, Gavin Matts, Carly Pope, Melody Butiu, Rodney To, Joey Guila, Elena Juatco, Rodney Perry, Melanie Rees, Michael Jonsson, Xavier de Guzman, and Jay Chandrasekhar.
Set around a family gathering to celebrate Easter Sunday, the comedy is based on Jo Koy’s life experiences and stand-up comedy.
Yes, there is a comedy called Easter Sunday being released in the first week of August (here in the United States, at least). Admittedly, I came into the critics’ screening, taking this as a red flag that Universal had no faith in the movie whatsoever. After having seen it, there is no doubt the film has flaws, but giving it a random release date in August rather than releasing it on Easter weekend or saving it for next year is a head-scratcher.
Directed by Jay Chandrasekhar of Broken Lizard notoriety, Easter Sunday centers on divorced father Joe Valencia (standup comedian Jo Koy, with the story drawing inspiration from his life experiences). This hustling actor has yet to accomplish much beyond a party-starting catchphrase in a Budweiser Zero commercial. He is guilt-tripped by his mom (Lydia Gaston) into driving in a few hours from Hollywood with his son Junior (Brandon Wardell). Back home, Joe is a local celebrity (everyone knows the commercial and practically begs for him to recite it in front of them). It also doesn’t take long before he’s actually happy to be home, treated with much respect and further reverence after misleading the family into thinking he received an upcoming leading role on a sitcom. More importantly, he is perceived as a charming peacemaker for this Filipino American family of colorful personalities.
Diffusing is necessary, as it turns out Joe’s mom is feuding with his Aunt Theresa (Tia Carrere), with no one in the family having a firm grasp on what they are fighting about. Cousin Eugene (Eugene Cordero) is the obligatory goofball screwup of the bunch, having made a bad investment starting up a business with Joe’s money, which leads to run-ins with ruthless criminals and stolen prized possessions (a pair of boxing gloves worn by Manny Pacquiao come into play).
Meanwhile, aspiring photographer Junior has a crush on Tala (Eva Noblezada), developing a sweet bond as they discuss coming from different social classes and family relationships. Junior is frustrated and feels that his father is hardly ever there for him and is much more focused on elevating his acting career. Nevertheless, the dangerous adventures involving Eugene’s tomfoolery allow the three of them to connect throughout shenanigans (did you think I was going to review a movie from Jay Chandrasekhar without mentioning that word).
However, these antics (that come across as extended filler) detract from some of the more engaging ideas at the core of Easter Sunday, such as Joe faced with a decision to make; he can have a starring sitcom role but only if he degrades himself putting on a silly accent that lowest common denominator Americans will find amusing. As such, there’s much to explore involving what it’s like for minorities inside comedy and the Hollywood system. Still, it’s brushed chiefly aside for comedy far more broad and sillier, as if it doesn’t want to genuinely encourage the Americans in the audience to contemplate such things.
Easter Sunday is also a funnier film when it uses the size of the family and supporting cast to its advantage (there are quite a few family members I haven’t gotten around to mentioning). For starters, the chemistry is there and provides an opportunity to focus on the holiday itself (and more distinct aspects such as authentic cooking). A group this large also occasionally turns into a crowd for Joe to inadvertently end up performing stand-up comedy that simultaneously offers nuggets of wisdom and decent laughs.
Unfortunately, the screenplay from Kate Angelo and Ken Cheng is more concerned with fixing Eugene’s unpleasant situation, eventually jumping the shark once and for all in an overblown third act. And not even welcome cameos from Lou Diamond Phillips, Jimmy O. Yang, and Tiffany Haddish is enough to smooth over the narrative shortcomings and missed opportunities. A few emotional beats also come across as forced, even if the performances are primarily solid otherwise. The good intentions are there, its holiday hijinks from a refreshing perspective, and the characters are endearing, but Easter Sunday loses sight of its more interesting aspects.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com