with a lot of jokey family conflicts and some slightly less jokey encounters with menacing guys with guns.
Yang and Tiffany Haddish. Everything else is a distant third.
Koy plays Joe Valencia, an LA-based stand-up comic and would-be actor best known for a series of beer commercials with the catchphrase “Let’s get the party started, baby!”
That job has ended and he is hoping to be cast as the wacky neighbor in a new sitcom so he can make enough money to support his family.
He does well in the audition, but they won’t give him the role unless he will perform with an exaggerated accent, similar to the conflict faced by Aziz Ansari in “Master of None.”
Nick (director Jay Chandrasekhar) urges him to do whatever they ask.
Like all great stand-ups, he is brilliant at creating vivid characters on stage with his exaggerated posture, facial expressions, and voice.
The character he plays here has a more limited range, mostly looking frustrated or harried.
At Easter services, after a silly encounter with the priest who wants help with his show business career, Joe ends up in front of the congregation and can’t help going into a stand-up routine about Easter.
The plot contrivances about Eugene’s predicament with the loan shark, a valuable stolen item,
and the updates from Nick (who always ends a call by saying he is losing the cell signal) get tedious because they don’t play into Koy’s strengths as a performer or the setting’s potential for
“the more specific a story is, the more universal it is” category.
“Family is mad
complicated” and that is about as insightful as it gets until the hug-fest ending.
Anyone who is second or third generation will identify with the tradition vs. assimilation dynamic and the passionate loyalty to members of the community who have become famous.
And anyone who has a family will identify with the generational conflicts over what constitutes success and the importance of security.
both enormously appealing in the tricky roles where subtlety has to balance out the heightened emotions of the adults.
The entire cast is excellent, including a surprise Filipino guest star. It’s a pleasure to see their jubilance in bringing their culture to screen, which shines even in the script’s weakest moments.
Despite its broad comedy, typical of “Dukes of Hazzard” director Jay Chandrasekhar, the film has some tender and wise moments. And even if you don’t get all the ethnic jokes,
there’s plenty of family drama that anybody will recognize, no matter their background.
Koy plays Joe Valencia, a Los Angeles comedian trying to land a part in a sitcom. (ABC recently rejected the pilot of a sitcom starring Koy but is reportedly interested in redeveloping the show.)
“You’re at 30,” he is told. “Bring it up to 50.”
(Carrere is of Spanish, Filipino, and Chinese descent.) So there’s a meta-conflict at play here,
and one wonders if Nick’s frequent goading of Joe resonates with Chandrasekhar’s own experience in the industry. (Born in Chicago, Chandrasekhar is of Tamil descent.)
Identity isn’t the only conflict. Joe is a divorced father who’s more concerned about his career than about his teenage son,
known as Junior (Brandon Wardell).
Joe plans to make it up to him: He’ll take him on a road trip for Easter Sunday dinner,
but that just gives Dad more chances to let Junior down.
It sounds more like
a family drama than comedy, doesn’t it?
the most important day of the liturgical calendar, the film isn’t particularly religious. During Easter morning services, Joe even ends up doing a stand-up routine.
Besides that, the order of Mass depicted is highly unorthodox. That probably wouldn’t have played well on a holy day — not for much of its apparent target audience, anyway.
Screenwriters Ken Cheng and Kate Angelo take great liberties with Catholicism,
and their irreverence is such that when Joe and his cousin (Eugene Cordero)
arrive at Joe’s mother’s house, they turn around the statue of Santo Niño —
the child Jesus — because it creeps them out.
I said this wasn’t a religious picture,
but this turning away from Jesus seems to be a lot of what “Easter Sunday” is about.
Part of Joe’s shtick is that Mom
(a terrific Lydia Gaston) is always complaining that her son didn’t become a nurse
(as so many Filipinos follow that vocation)
and that he never comes home. For all the frantic humor — including a crowd-pleasing cameo by Tiffany Haddish
Junior’s love interest,
as a police officer — the movie is about one man’s fall from grace,
his struggle with failure and fatherhood, and his strained relationships with his family.
While the adults are busy with their careers and petty squabbles, it’s encouraging that the younger generation seems more levelheaded. It’s young Ruth (Eva Noblezada of “Luck”),
who’s the movie’s moral center, especially when she scolds her prospective beau after he gives Dad an earful.
“Bro, that’s not how we talk to our parents here,” she tells him. Ruthie also offers the movie’s richest ethnic metaphor: that the popular dessert drink halo-halo, which includes crushed ice, evaporated milk,
and various colorful fruits are as messy as their heritage — as messy as family and, perhaps, as life itself. “But you keep coming back for more.”
“Easter Sunday” is, like halo-halo, a bit messy. I wouldn’t have chosen some of its ingredients. But there’s enough flavor here that, even if you don’t like, say, coconut, you can just pick it out.
PG-13. At area theaters. Contains some violence, some strong language, and suggestive references. In English and some Tagalog with subtitles. 96 minutes.