EASTER SUNDAY is directed by Jay Chandrasekhar. The film stars Jo Koy, Jimmy O. Yang, Tia Carrere, Brandon Wardell, Eva Noblezada, Eugene Cordero, and Tiffany Haddish.
Joe Valencia is an actor and comedian in Beverly Hills who struggles constantly to juggle his professional and family lives, which has made him distant from his son. His son reluctantly accompanies him on a trip to Northern California for Easter Sunday with the extended family he has grown estranged from, including his overbearing mother, an aunt who regularly clashes with his mother, a sister who became a nurse, and a brother deep in debt to less-than-favorable individuals. Joe struggles to reconnect with family and friends he hasn’t seen in years who largely know him for beer commercials he once did, while his son finds a love interest in a beautiful young girl. But with the constant bickering and fights, coupled with Joe’s struggle to find balance between home and professional lives, will Easter Sunday be a success for the clan, or will everything end up a complete disaster?
Prior to receiving the screening invite for EASTER SUNDAY, I had no idea who Jo Koy was. He’s apparently very successful and popular as a comic, and I was quite surprised to find he’d slipped under my radar for so long. EASTER SUNDAY unites a primarily Filipino cast who are all perfect for their roles, but the film’s message of families and togetherness despite differences is universally relatable. It does have a few too many characters and subplots, including one subplot that really doesn’t do the final product any favors, but audiences seeking a comedy with a heart that doesn’t resort to toilet humor or cheap laughs will find EASTER SUNDAY fits the bill nicely.
Jo Koy, EASTER SUNDAY’s leading man, is hilarious in his part here. The plot point of a workaholic dad trying to juggle his employment with family life is nothing new to the world of cinema, but Koy makes the part his own, becoming surprisingly relatable. The chemistry a lead actor has with his co-stars can make or break a film here, and Koy plays off of everyone in the movie surprisingly well, from bickering extended family and his son to an eccentric agent claiming to play to his best interests in the entertainment industry. This is a man who only wants to the do the right thing and finds himself flying off the rails trying to make it happen. After having seen his performance here, I’ll certainly be looking up more of his content.
The supporting cast is nearly as good, including Brandon Wardell as Joe’s son who he’s desperate to have a good relationship with, despite his son’s obvious doubts due to past disappointments. The extended family and contacts in Northern California make these parts their own, including an almost unrecognizable Tia Carrere (WAYNE’S WORLD, LILO AND STITCH) as an aunt constantly clashing with Joe’s mother. Even fellow comedian Jimmy O. Yang shows up in a hilarious supporting part! Did I mention even Tiffany Haddish shows up? Everyone fits their role perfectly. Whether or not I “buy” the performances in a movie and find them believable is essential. From a casting standpoint and actor chemistry, it doesn’t get much better than this.
Jay Chandrasekhar, probably best known for his work on films from the Brozen Lizard comedy group (SUPER TROOPERS, CLUB DREAD) is in the director’s chair for EASTER SUNDAY. With the huge cast of characters, subplots, and everything else the film tries to accomplish, this guy has quite the juggling act to pull off. And more often than not, he succeeds! There are characters and elements I would’ve like to see explored more in depth, including much of the culture explored in the movie, but this in a way ironically mirrors the overwhelming nature of family reunions and doesn’t quite seem like a flaw for that very reason. The film is a laugh riot, and it never feels like it’s running on fumes. Okay, there is one catchphrase in the movie (I won’t spoil it here) that’s repeated endlessly to the point of frustration, but with all that EASTER SUNDAY does right, I can forgive that.
The only major flaw that holds back EASTER SUNDAY from perfection is the presence of a completely unnecessary subplot regarding Joe’s brother owning money to a group of gun-toting gangsters. This subplot, which occupies more of the film than it should, feels completely out of place and undermines the movie’s message of family togetherness. That element alone was enough to make a film of, and I’m not sure what possessed the writers of an otherwise damn-near-perfect script to insert this into a film that didn’t require it. A tip to the screenwriters – if you’re making a comedy about families, stick to conflicts within the family. Not every movie needs thugs and guns to get its point across, and it’s an unwelcome element in a movie that likely would’ve been flawless without it.
Yes, EASTER SUNDAY makes a misstep with its most unnecessary subplot, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the film. Jo Koy stars in one of the most relatable, heartfelt, and hilarious comedies of recent years. You’ll be impressed with what you find here – Laughs, an ethnic identity, the best and worst of family gatherings, and everything in between. And it doesn’t stop to toilet jokes and cheap laughs to win over the audience. Highly recommended!