Easter Sunday

I honestly don't know what the point of Easter Sunday was supposed to be. Then again, the filmmakers don't seem to have been entirely sure about that, either. Seemingly designed as a vehicle for comedian Jo Koy, it actually works against him, making him seem profoundly unfunny. The director is Jay Chandrasekhar, member of the Broken Lizard troupe responsible for Super Troopers and Beerfest. He has a solid sense of comedy, so one has to wonder if he recognized the fundamental problems with the screenplay Kate Angelo and Ken Cheng wrote. In a time when very few studio comedies are being released to theaters, seeing one this weak is distressing.

Koy plays Joe Valencia, a divorced Filipino-American comedian whose sole big break was a beer commercial. He's angling to get a TV sitcom, and that constant focus detracts from time with teenage son Junior (Brandon Wardell). To make up for his frequent absence, he takes Junior along to Daly City, California to spend the titular holiday with the extended family. He arrives to find mother Susan (Lydia Gaston) fighting with aunt Teresa (Tia Carrere), a feud that has plunged everyone into chaos. As his son gets close to a local girl, Tala (Yellow Rose's Eva Noblezada), Joe frets about his career prospects.

For the first half-hour, Easter Sunday looks like it's going to be one of those charming comedies, like Moonstruck, My Big Fat Greek Wedding or Crazy Rich Asians, that explore the dynamics within a family of fascinating, appealing characters. But then the real plot of the movie kicks in, and it's dumb, dumb, dumb. Joe's cousin Eugene (Eugene Cordero) is $40,000 in debt to a local criminal. He and Joe hatch a plan to get him out of the hole by selling boxing gloves once belonging to Manny Pacquiao, the former Filipino pugilist. The criminal has given them until the end of the day, at which time he'll shoot them if they don't pay up.

When you have all the ingredients for a good domestic comedy, what do you need the crime plot for? Nothing about it unfolds in a manner that's even remotely realistic. The entire scenario, and all that happens in it, feels completely forced. You get an out-of-nowhere car chase, a visit to a shady broker who improbably operates from a cavernous headquarters underneath a shopping mall, and a cameo from a well-known actor (playing himself) that's here because someone apparently thought it would be funny to have a celebrity help Joe. Tiffany Haddish also shows up as the cop who pulls Joe over after the car chase. She's clearly been allowed to improvise her dialogue, but since the scene isn't funny to begin with, her riffs aren't either.

Easter Sunday contains one of the worst scenes of the year. In church, the priest catches Joe and Eugene talking, so he sarcastically asks Joe to come up and give the sermon. Joe does, launching into a 5-minute stand-up routine. Aside from the fact that the sequence was contrived solely to let Koy do one of his monologues – and aside from the other fact that a Catholic church would never allow this – his jokes are lacking in wit. We're asked to believe the congregation is left in hysterics over this half-formed bit that pokes fun at the crucifixion.

Jo Koy is an amiable enough presence, and it's great to see Carrere and Noblezada in supporting roles. I only laughed once or twice at Easter Sunday, though. The picture is frustratingly lazy and painfully labored. Its star's movie career may be over before it even begins.

out of four

Easter Sunday is rated PG-13 for some strong language and suggestive references. The running time is 1 hour and 36 minutes.