'Easter Sunday' review: Jo Koy's Filipino-focused comedy is airless
Courtesy of Universal Pictures
“Easter Sunday” is a rarity these days: A commercial comedy without any major stars or intellectual property attached to its name; just a homegrown film that deserves credit for putting a lens on the Filipino community. It’s partially the reason comedian Jo Koy ditched a planned streaming release in favor of the big screen so that the community could feel represented. That’s important, but it doesn’t salvage the one-two misery punch that is “Easter Sunday,” a laughless farce striving for relevance by throwing in half-baked commentaries on Hollywood’s representation problem and jarring side quests involving violent gangsters. It’s like a bad stand-up sketch gone horribly wrong.
The premise had potential and Jo Koy’s devoted fan base will gladly fork over cash for whatever he does, but “Easter Sunday” ain’t it. Koy plays a fictionalized version of himself named Joe Valencia, an up and comer known for a beer commercial catch-phrase everyone asks him to repeat before a selfie. When he books an audition for a sitcom, things seem to be on the rise until the casting agent asks him to perform with an accent even though the character in question doesn’t have one. As his agent (director and Broken Lizard mainstay Jay Chandrasekhar) puts it: “just do the accent!” Obviously, the point is to reinforce the discrmination minorities often endure in the entertainment business, which means selling themselves for derogatory stereotypes if it’ll make general audiences laugh.
It’s a solid point, but “Easter Sunday” doesn’t do much with the premise other than briefly mention it throughout the movie. The main event (at least you would assume) revolves around the traditions Filipinos embrace during the Easter holiday and Joe’s careful navigation of the family drama. There’s a longstanding conflict between his mother (Lydia Gaston) and Aunt Theresa (Tia Carrere) which sets the table for plenty of comedy hijinks (even if Joe’s sister, played by Elena Juacto, his titos, Melody Butiu, Joey Guila, and Rodney To, don’t know how the feud began).
The dinner table setting, specifically those populated with eccentric families, always serves domestic comedies well, but “Easter Sunday” doesn’t focus much time on this dynamic. Instead, the movie spends an absurd amount of resources on Joe’s cousin Eugene (Eugene Cordero) and his failed “hype truck” taco cart that went belly up and he now owes $60k to a luxury goods dealer named Toby Daytona (Asif Ali).
It’s an unnecessary crime subplot that’s laughable as it’s miserable. Then again, nothing connects in “Easter Sunday.” From unearned cameos and the over-the-top threat of violence lurking around the corner to Tiffany Hassish playing a police officer and an awkward interruption during an Easter sermon that must’ve been written so Koy could try out his new material (It literally becomes a stand-up set complete with the annoying laugh track) there’s not much worth praising here. The talent assembled deserved to have the red carpet, big screen experience, but not at the expense of a screenplay with zero laughs and cringy execution.
EASTER SUNDAY is now playing in theaters.