Jo Koy’s big-screen pitch for a sitcom titled “Easter Sunday”

Jo Koy is the person who most merits a sitcom. The stand-up comedian is the epitome of a working comedian; they go on constant tours, appear on all the late-night programs, and produce special after special, all the while selling out theaters. Koy hasn’t been able to escape his (likely quite lucrative) rut, despite this. All he needs is that one huge crossover star vehicle, like Kumail Nanjiani in The Big Sick or Amy Schumer in Trainwreck. Right??

Easter Sunday is obviously intended to be that, and sadly, it doesn’t appear that Koy will be breaking out of that rut anytime soon. It might occur on the festival mentioned in the title, but it might also involve any other required family meeting where food cannot be served until after church. It doesn’t matter that it will be showing in a cinema near you in August (because of this). The movie is more culturally focused, depicting the quarrels, idiosyncrasies, and extravagant feasts of Filipino-American family life—a frequent theme in Koy’s stand-up. In a vibrant one-man act, he assumes the roles of his entire family on stage, mimicking their voices and personas. This man’s charm is dispersed throughout a huge ensemble cast, making him less interesting in comparison. The film even seems to be aware of this, providing Koy a stand-up scene that, while lacking in context, nevertheless gives the film some much-needed vitality.

Additionally, Koy’s on-screen alter ego Joe Valencia resembles the performer, or at least a version of him, quite a little. He struggles often to be present for his adolescent son Joe Jr. (Brandon Wardell), despite his busy schedule and hard work. A parent-teacher conference about Joe Jr.’s appalling grades is depicted in an early scene as Joe struggles and misses it because he is across town for a second callback for the sitcom job that could change his life. Carly Pope, his ex-wife, isn’t all that sympathetic. He consistently pulls this nonsense.

Joe is constantly under pressure from his mother Susan (Lydia Gaston), who covers her vulnerabilities beneath a stern taskmaster facade. As if being an absentee dad straight out of a 1990s family movie wasn’t enough, she also acts as a relentless taskmaster. The video says that this, along with quarreling aunts, karaoke events, Lou Diamond Phillips, and eerie Santo Nio sculptures that seem to follow you around the room with their eyes, is a Filipino phenomenon. Easter Sunday frequently runs the risk of becoming overly sentimental in its attempt to strike the right balance between inside jokes for the knowledgeable and explanations for the ignorant. (At one point, supporting actor Eva Noblezada dutifully explains that the Filipino culture is best exemplified by the shaved-ice treat halo-halo: Extra, with so much piled on.)

When Joe and Junior travel from Los Angeles to the Filipino community of Daly City, California, for a holiday visit with the family, Joe, an endearing source of corny dad jokes, is overshadowed by the film’s sillier supporting characters. He handed his stupid cousin Eugene (Eugene Cordero) $20,000 to establish a taco truck, but he wasted it on fancy shoelaces and a flashy paint job for his fictitious “Hype Truck.” In order to free Eugene from the miniature fury of small-time gangster Dev Deluxe, a maddening subplot involving a race to scrounge up $40k in a single afternoon is sparked (Asif Ali). A stolen pair of boxing gloves that formerly belonged to fighter Manny Paquiao will be sold by Eugene. Joe agrees to assist, but on the condition that a Filipino get the gloves.

In a brief cameo as Joe’s ex-girlfriend who has since become a cop and enjoys her newfound ability to put her ex-boyfriend in his place, Tiffany Haddish, the deep-bench MVP, contributes some of the movie’s biggest chuckles. Other jokes pay off as well: Joe just can’t shake his role as the pitchman for a beer commercial, which has been his most lucrative work to date, and the movie gets a lot of humor out of him graciously accepting people who gently repeat his tagline back to him. Overall, though, the humor elicits a perplexed smirk rather than a hearty chuckle. Koy’s agreeability and unreserved tenderness, which give him a distinct humorous personality, also make him a strange fit for modern film comedies and their emphasis on action. (When did the use of firearms turn such a need for a Hollywood studio comedy?) In order to give Easter Sunday some oomph, renowned director Jay Chandrasekhar (Super Troopers), who also plays Joe’s agent in a minor role, enters the picture.

However, the sentimental scenes are the ones that have the most sense of realism, including what is likely the film’s most culturally specific message: that kids shouldn’t be “little bitches” when their dads miss events like track meets. This expresses something about the complex brew of guilt, resentment, gratitude, and nurture that characterizes the Filipino-American family experience more than shots panning over tables heaving with empanadas, adobo, lechon, and pancit palabok.

Jo Koy clearly cares about his family members and wants everyone to know it. Simply put, his style might work better in the more somber limitations of a classic multi-camera sitcom. His character’s desire for a regular work that would allow him to get home in time for dinner reads like a subliminal appeal to Hollywood, and this makes the movie’s happy conclusion seem like a wish come true. Hopefully, a studio executive will get the message.

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