Stand-up comedy sensation Jo Koy stars as Joe Valencia, who is taking his son home to Daly City for an Easter celebration with the Filipino side of his family. As a comedian pursuing a TV role, Joe has not been an active part of his son’s life and is the target of a lot of resentment. Joe sees this as an opportunity to reconnect. What ensues is a lot of family drama with a touch of illegal activity.
Growing up in a Filipino family, I recognized a lot of scenes in Easter Sunday. Not so much the competitive sisters, but the bickering sisters, yes. The The delicious looking feasts. The standard decoration found in most Filipino homes. The pressure to make your family proud or be the good child.
Despite his popularity, with thousands of fans selling out all his shows even at some of the biggest concert venues, I understand those who don’t care for Jo Koy’s humor. Many older Filipinos think he’s making fun of his culture by imitating his mom. But .I believe him when he says he’s just telling his story. I know my generation and younger relate to a lot of it.
This movie is not much more different than what “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” did for Greeks, or what “So I Married an Axe Murderer” did for Scots or any other movie that tells a story from an ethnic gaze. Jo Koy calls it his love letter to Filipinos. And how could it not be? To get an all-Filipino main cast in a movie backed by Dreamworks AND a theater release instead of direct to streaming, is unprecedented. It’s definitely an accomplishment Jo Koy and Filipinos worldwide can be proud of.
That being said, there was a line that bothered me enough that I was still thinking about it for days after. When Filipinos say “Just kidding!” they say “Joke lang!” Not “Joke na lang!” which Joe and his sister say in one scene. With all the Filipinos in this movie, you’d think one of them would have questioned the wording.
But as a Filipina, I still found Easter Sunday a gratifying experience just for the opportunity to see so much of my culture on the big screen. It captured the chaos of the typical Filipino-American family gathering and some unexpectedly poignant moments had me tearing up. I mean, who cries watching people karaoke? Apparently I do, but that’s because when most of your family lives in another state, as much as they can drive you crazy, distance can make the heart grow fonder and you miss those moments of togetherness.
As for the supporting cast, while some of it could be seen as exaggerated acting, it’s not unfamiliar for those who grew up watching Filipino cinema. Lydia Gaston, Broadway singer, actress and artist, was perfect as the mom Jo Koy imitates in his comedy shows. It was clear she studied his impersonations. All I have to say is when the professional comedians aren’t the funniest characters in the movie, that definitely says a lot for the supporting cast.
Is Easter Sunday worth catching at the theater? I would say yes, even if just for the experience of watching with other Filipinos and Jo Koy fans.
4 stars out of 5