Easter Sunday: Not Special, by David Bax
Well, the good news is, if you’re already a fan of Jo Koy‘s standup comedy, you’ll probably like his new movie and first major star vehicle, Easter Sunday. He plays a very Jo Koy-like character named Joe Valencia and the movie finds multiple excuses to essentially just let him do his standup act. First, we actually see him perform standup. Later, he’s invited to speak at his church, where he holds a microphone and tells jokes. Finally, before giving his big climactic speech to his family, he grabs the karaoke microphone at the party and tells a few more jokes. It feels like half the movie’s dialogue was copied and pasted.
But I’m sure Koy and, more importantly, Universal Pictures don’t only want Easter Sunday to appeal to existing Koy fans. Unfortunately, they faltered by failing to make the movie distinctive in almost any other way. Director Jay Chandrasekhar, who is very funny as a member of the Broken Lizard comedy team and who helmed the movie that made their name, Super Troopers, has never quite succeeded in developing a point of view behind the camera despite being one of the most prolific comedy directors in the business over the last twenty years. Easter Sunday, like much of his work, is flat both in terms of look and pacing.
Then again, that’s in keeping with the overall sense Easter Sunday gives of just trying to accomplish the minimum necessary to qualify as a movie. The plot, in which Joe takes his teenage son (Brandon Wardell) home to spend Easter with his family, is little more than a sketch on a notepad. The same could be said for his character development; Easter Sunday does the classic lazy movie thing of telling us its protagonist is struggling financially but providing no evidence.
One minor but noticeable way in which the movie does distinguish itself, though, is in its depiction of everyday Catholicism. Koy is a comedian who works clean but Easter Sunday, despite its title, probably isn’t quite anodyne enough to qualify as faith-based cinema. Still, there’s something potent in the picture it provides of Filipino Catholic life as wholesome, familial and quintessentially American. Catholics are depicted in movies a lot but it’s usually in a gothic, tortured way; a gangster looking for reassurances that he’s not going to hell or a priest grappling with doubts about the existence of God. Here we see the togetherness and love that are usually reserved for Protestants in filmed entertainment but will be recognizable to many who grew up Catholic.
Still, Easter Sunday can only be recommended for people who already like Koy. Because if you’re a fan of any of the other funny people who show up here (Eugene Cordero, Jimmy O. Yang, Tiffany Haddish), you’re going to be disappointed. No one else is allowed to take the stage.