Review: ‘Easter Sunday’ is a loving ode to Filipino culture
An extended boisterous clan gathers for a family vacation, sparking the requisite arguments, hurt feelings, grudges, inside jokes, laughter, love, reconciliation, and lots of eating, plus maybe a car chase.
So far so familiar
The difference in “Easter Sunday,” an upbeat but very broad family drama starring comedian Joe Coy, is that the extended clan is a Filipino-American family, and the cast is almost all Filipino, with a few familiar actors ending up as Filipino characters. were chosen. That in itself is a welcome achievement, especially for Coy, whose life is clearly reflected here and anchors the company with a winning charm. The writing could certainly be edgier, and the ending is more than a little edgy. But it’s an undeniable step forward for the big screen.
Koi clearly lays out much of his story in this feature film debut, an adaptation of his wildly popular stand-up comedy (Jay Chandrasekhar directs from a screenplay by Keith Angelo and Ken Cheng). He plays Joe Valencia, a Los Angeles comedian looking for his big acting break in Hollywood — just as he’s dealing with family issues on multiple fronts, all culminating on Easter Sunday.
We meet Joe, a divorced father, on a day when we are caught up in competing commitments. Her son Junior (a sweetly goofy Brandon Wardell) needs her at a school meeting to discuss average grades. His demanding mother, Susan (Lydia Gaston, an empress, blends the demanding, the loving and the needy), calls constantly to make sure she’s on her way to the Easter party. And he’s auditioning for a sitcom — something that takes him beyond beer commercials, where he’s famous for saying, “Let’s get this party started, baby!”
Joe (unsurprisingly) misses the school session, but attends the audition, only to be told they like him but want a “half-Filipino accent” – even if it’s one he doesn’t have. She complains to her agent, saying, “This show just wants a Filipino with a funny voice.” (In a wink, director Chandrasekhar plays the agent as a man who always drives suspiciously through tunnels and loses his cell signal.)
Easter Sunday arrives, and Joe travels from the California coast to the town of Daly and the Filipino American neighborhood, where his mother and sister Teresa (Tia Carrera, who has said this is her first Filipino role in a 40-year career) each are. Planning holiday meals they also fight over something or the other. It doesn’t help that the two women wear the exact same clothes to church (yes, that old joke.) Their intense competition over balik bayan boxes full of gifts to send home to the family is even funnier.
Several subplots come into play as the holiday festivities speed up and Joe tries to keep his comedic potential alive. One involves Joe’s lovable but less sensible cousin Eugene (Eugene Cordero) and his ill-advised entrepreneurial endeavors, which brings him and Joe together in a deadly conflict with gun-toting bully Dev Deluxe (Asif Ali). , with Filipino American star Lou Diamond Phillips as himself.
There’s also a brief encounter with the law during the car chase, the law being none other than Tiffany Haddish as Vanessa, Joe’s ex with an ax to grind and now a police badge.
No wonder it’s quite funny. Less welcoming is the whole crime gang subplot, which detracts from the more human themes. Speaking of humanity, the lovely Eva Noblezada portrays it beautifully as Tala, a love interest for Junior – a confident young woman who teaches the Los Angeles-raised boy some of the values around family that exist in the city. Dolly has learned to show.
If you’re a Broadway fan, you might recognize Noblezada from “Headstone,” where her incredible singing talent, teased here for a few seconds, is on full display. (Couldn’t they have given him more bars?) Nobelzadeh’s forced delivery highlights his scenes in a film that generally relies heavily on broad comedy. A church service seems to have become a standing routine.
And yet, one cannot leave with a smile. Food, family, a big karaoke stage… and the spotlight on the immigrant community that is underrepresented in Hollywood. There are worse ways to spend 96 minutes.
“Easter Sunday,” a Universal Studios release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for “strong language and suggestive references.” Duration: 96 minutes Two out of four stars.
MPAA definition of PG-13: Parents strongly cautioned. Some content may be inappropriate for children under the age of 13.
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