Years from now nobody's going to watch "Easter Sunday" for lessons in how to frame and cut visual comedy, or the right number of dumbstruck OMG! reaction shots.
And yet, years from now, "Easter Sunday" will still make a lot of people smile. The folks on the screen are the whole show, and this genial showcase for stand-up comic Jo Koy has the advantage of showing off a wealth of Asian/Pacific American talent, undervalued by establishment Hollywood.
The movie was originally slated for an Easter premiere, for obvious reasons; the pandemic release shuffle pushed it back to August. But since this summer's latest big action film is kind of a drag, a smaller-scale comedy offering a fair number of laughs and sending the audience out with an intergenerational karaoke rendition of "I Gotta Feeling" hits the spot. Even with its misses.
Koy, who is Filipino American, has been mining his extended Filipino family, particularly his needling, guilt-inducing, loving mother, on tour and cable comedy specials for years. "Easter Sunday" expands those routines into a script by Kate Angelo ("The Back-Up Plan") and Ken Cheng ("Sin City Saints").
The Koy character, Joe Valencia, is a medium-successful, perpetually hustling performer based in Los Angeles, best known as a beer spokesman. He's up for a series regular spot on a network sitcom. Problem: The brass wants him to do the role with a funny accent.
There are other problems in Joe's life: In between passive-aggressive calls with his agent (played by the film's director, Jay Chandrasekhar), he scrambles to be a decent single father to his high school age son (Brandon Wardell) while covering the $35,000 in private schooling costs.
Plus, it's Easter, which is epically important to Joe's fractious, boisterous family. A feud between his mother (Lydia Gaston) and his Aunt Theresa (Tia Carrere) threatens to mess up the weekend and so Joe and his son go on a road trip to patch things up. This they do, sort of, while running afoul of a gangster or two.
The most effective parts breathe easier, relying on weird little detours and off-kilter running gags allowing Koy and company to, in effect, not act — just be, and create a companionable movie version of an authentically observed family. That's what makes this ramshackle vehicle run. After all: What is family, any family, but a crisscrossing series of running gags, in every possible key?
**1/2 stars (out of 4)
Rated: PG-13 for some strong language/suggestive references.
Where: Area theaters.