In Easter Sunday, directed by Jay Chandrasekhar and written by Kate Angelo and Ken Chang, Jo Koy stars as a version of himself, Joe Valencia. This mildly popular stand-up comic’s beer commercial catch-phrase has given him national notoriety, though his home life is in shambles. He has joint custody with his ex-wife, Catherine (Carly Pope), of his high school son, Junior (Brandon Wardell). However, because of Joe’s life as a traveling comedian, he spent very little time with Junior during his formative years.
Joe’s hoping his relationship with Junior can be salvaged once he nails the role of the Filipino neighbor on a sitcom. In the meantime, Joe forces Junior to accompany him on a trip to Northern California to visit his mother, Yvonne (Melody Butiu), for Easter dinner. Unfortunately, this bonding time isn’t bonding time as Joe is always on the phone with his agent, who needs him to duck out of dinner for a final audition with the network.
Easter Sunday plops us right into the center of Joe’s family drama that forces him to flee to Los Angeles to escape. Joe’s mother and his Aunt Teresa (Tia Carrere) are not speaking to one another, and Yvonne is threatening to boycott Teresa’s Easter Lunch, while Teresa plans to boycott Yvonne’s Easter dinner. Joe’s sister, Regina (Elena Juatco), resents that he left her behind to deal with all the issues. His cousin, Eugene (Eugene Cordero), has gotten into financial trouble with the local mobster, Dev Deluxe (Asif Ali). Finally, let’s not forget Junior, who has basically given up on his father ever being a good parent.
“…Joe is on a wacky adventure to pay back Dev with the help of Marvin…”
When Joe decides to help Eugene resolve his money problems with Dev, he finds himself also on the hook for the cash due that evening. When Junior insists on tagging along, he falls for one of Dev’s confidants, Ruth (Eva Noblezada). Now, Joe is on a wacky adventure to pay back Dev with the help of Marvin (Jimmy O. Yang), Lou Diamond Phillips (himself), and Joe’s ex-girlfriend/cop Vanessa (Tiffany Haddish).
Easter Sunday is what I call a comedian’s comedy, with a Filipino twist. The story is a way to poke (more nudge) fun at Jo Koy’s family as well as uplift and honor his culture. As a result, there is a healthy serving of Filipino “inside jokes.” I’m somewhat familiar with the community, and I probably got about 80% of the jokes. Unfortunately, others might not fair so well if they have less cultural knowledge. I saw this with a predominantly Filipino audience, and everyone was having a good time. I laughed and had fun, and I’ll bet you will too. It’s great to see Carrere back on the big screen with a meaty role and also see Lou Diamond Phillips (who I just learned is Filipino) poke fun at himself.
As Joe, Koy was made for the role, obviously. If you’re a fan of his stand-up, you’re going to particularly enjoy his performance here. If you’re Filipino, this is your time to show the world what you’re all about. I’ve certainly been there with Chinese-American films; in my case, I’m proud of my heritage and want to show it off to the world.
So let’s manage expectations. Everything in Easter Sunday is played for laughs… crazy family, wacky mob thriller, and lots of cameos. It’s all good, light fun. See it because you’re a fan of Jo Koy or just to get to know a little more about your Filipino brothers and sisters.
"…good, light fun."