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  • Writer's pictureMatt Conway

Easter Sunday: Review

After being defined in Hollywood by a thankless beer ad, stand-up comedian Joe Valencia vies for his chance at a breakout role. Joe eventually tests for a cable pilot – although the casting process reaches a pause as Joe finds himself returning home for his hectic Filipino family’s Easter celebrations. The seemingly simple one-day tip with his distant son turns into a journey of self-discovery for Joe in the studio comedy Easter Sunday.

In an era where studio comedies are a dying breed, this star vehicle for Chelsea Lately staple Jo Koy provides a refreshing breath of fresh air for the theatrical marketplace. Easter Sunday also represents a Filipino cultural backdrop that rarely receives recognition from mainstream offerings. The idea of a comedy exploring family and career challenges from an overlooked perspective possesses undeniable promise.

If only the final product could match the underlying potential. Easter Sunday ultimately squanders its feel-good energy in an overstuffed and underdelivered holiday comedy.

I still applaud Koy, director Jay Chandrasekhar, and screenwriters Kate Angelo and Ken Chang for what they attempt here. Easter Sunday exhibits its most promising traits when defining itself in the textures of Koy’s personal journey as an emerging stand-up. Joe finds himself in a complex balancing act, wanting to make it big in Hollywood without having to sell himself short in roles that morph his ethnicity into a stereotype. The creative team here admirably reckons with that reality as Joe tries his best to prosper in Hollywood and remain true to his family roots.

There are glimmers where the film’s family-centric approach and authentic depiction of Filipino camaraderie elicit an undeniable charm. The talented ensemble cast helps imbue much-needed vitality to the familiar studio comedy formula. Koy emanates an affable spirit as the struggling Hollywood comedian Joe, while Lydia Gaston, Eugene Cordero, and Tia Carrere have a blast playing into the humorous eccentricities of Joe’s vibrant family. Tiffany Haddish also steals the show as usual in a cameo role as a former flame from Joe’s past.

Unfortunately, Easter Sunday distracts itself from engaging with its promising thesis. Angelo and Cheng adhere too much to the formula of contrived studio comedies, including adding a bizarre crime subplot that feels like leftovers from another screenplay. The needless conflict adds nothing but busy energy to a film that modulates from being pleasantly down-to-earth to a played-out sitcom episode throughout. In hindsight, focusing more on Joe and his family’s dilemmas would resonate with greater impact if those arcs received additional screentime.

The decision to rely upon standard issue devices severely limits the film’s comedic potential. Gags rooted in humorous cultural observations and combustible family dynamics register with some success, but a bevy of jokes centered around dated pop culture references and flat slapstick bits end up overwhelming the experience. It’s also disappointing to see Chandrasekhar settle into the director-for-hire mold despite his vast comedic experience. The Super Troopers helmer struggles to enhance the material through his competent yet flavorless directorial choices.

I can’t fully recommend Easter Sunday, although I don’t think the film deserves some of the vitriol it’s receiving. Koy and company bring some charisma to the table before the film eventually suffocates under its standard-issue design. Still, it would make for a decent-enough watch for comedy fans scanning streaming services a few months from now.

Easter Sunday is now playing in theaters.


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