Review by Dan Skip Allen
Jo Koy is a stand-up comedian of some note in the Filipino community. To be honest, I hadn't heard of him before seeing Easter Sunday, a film that is supposed to be about his family and friends. Every story isn't always exactly the way it unfolds in the real world. Filmmakers take some creative license with the stories they are telling. I think that is the case with this film to make it seem more fun than the actual events that transpired.
Joe Valencia (Jo Koy) is a stand-up comedian. He is estranged from his wife, and she is with another man. When his mother (Lydia Gaston) calls and asks him to come to the San Francisco area of Gateway City for Easter dinner, he sees it as a way to bond with his son, who has been struggling in school. Joe hasn't had much time to spend with him due to his burgeoning acting career. He may get a role in a sitcom, but it hinges on him being similar to his family. He moved away to Los Angeles for a reason. This trip up north could help family relations, though. So he's torn between family and his career.
In the past, there has been more than one film depicting family drama in a comedy setting. Easter Sunday is the latest that has used this familiar trope. Crazy Rich Asians was a similar type of film that came out a few years ago. All you have to do is take out the rich and substitute suburban Asians, and you have this family. This film has the overheating mother figure, the troublesome brother, the supportive sister, the long-lost love, and a couple of subplots. The subplots led to some pretty hilarious moments with fantastic cameos from Tiffany Haddish and Lou Diamond Philips. These two added a nice touch to a film with enough humor from the start.
Jo Koy, as I mentioned, was a stand-up comedian I wasn't that familiar with, but he really surprised me. From the very first scene of him doing stand-up, he controlled the film. He even took over at an Easter Sunday church gathering which was hilarious. He did what every comedian does and used his dysfunctional family as canon founder for his stand-up routine. It was fantastic how he weaved his routine into the story from the bible. It was brilliantly written and acted by him. He's going to be one to watch from now on for me.
Besides the hilarious comedic moments of the film, it actually had some heart to it. Sure there were a lot of box-checking moments, but it didn't matter because the film had me with the story of the dysfunctional family who came together in the end. One group of characters was shoehorned into the story but ended up working out in the end, giving the story a happy ending. Still, there were also a couple of stereotypical characters that the film got away with because of the film's overall charm.
Easter Sunday, coming out in early August for some reason, turned out to be the perfect counter-programming for Bullet Train and other streaming films that are coming out this weekend. Not knowing anything about the film proved to be a blessing in disguise because it helped me enjoy the movie more. Jo Koy is a star in the making, and this film proved that. It had many comedic moments from the stars of the film and cameos from other established stars. The subplots worked in the context of the film, and in the end, this film was a pleasant surprise. If you're looking for something different this weekend, this might be the thing for you. It was funny and heartfelt and had some action to boot.
Easter Sunday hits theaters on August 5.