Easter Sunday: A Filipino-American Love Letter

(from left) Eugene (Eugene Cordero), Joe Valencia (Jo Koy) and Lou Diamond Phillips (as himself) in Easter Sunday, directed by Jay Chandrasekhar. © 2022 UNIVERSAL STUDIOS. All Rights Reserved.

Easter Sunday sees a stand-up comedian return home to his Filipino-American family in this love letter to his community.

Jo Koy brings his signature comedy to the film as stand-up comedian Joe Valencia. He grew up during an era where Filipino-Americans didn’t see themselves on screen. Cut to years later, he’s giving back to the community in his own way. When the jokes work, they work. Even coming from a Jewish family, I’m no stranger to seeing families go at each other. I’ve been to the Thanksgiving and Chanukah gatherings from hell so trust me, bickering is plenty normal. Everyone wants to see themselves on the screen and this is something that Easter Sunday has to offer for the Filipino-American community but the film falls short. However, there’s one joke here that has no business being in the film and I’ll have more on that in a moment. To say that it left a sour taste in my mouth is not an understatement.

Koy comes from a background in stand-up comedy, which is substantially different from improv and sketch comedy. And yet, he transitions just fine to film acting. Film acting requires a different type of performance but he’s in great hands with Jay Chandrasekhar at the helm. Anyway, his character hit it big with a Budweiser ad and everyone reminds him of the tagline: “Let’s get the party started, babay!” As for his family life, son Junior (Brandon Wardell) is struggling in school and ex-wife Catherine (Carly Pope) isn’t happy that Joe is always out on auditions and not being there for Junior. Catherine is now married to Nick (Michael Weaver), who always reminds Joe that he plays for the LA Kings.

Joe is up for a role in Great Scott. Meanwhile, his mother, Susan (Lydia Gaston), demands that he come home to Daly City in Northern California for the holiday. If you know how Hollywood can be, it means choosing between work or family. As is the case, Joe is in for quite the weekend as he takes Junior with him to visit the family. One thing that they manage to heighten the stakes by way of Joe’s cousin, Eugene (Eugene Cordero). He’s gotten himself into a mess with Dev Deluxe (Asif Ali) and relies on Jo to help get out of it.

I didn’t realize until watching the film that Lou Diamond Phillips was Filipino. A lot of this comes back to the sort of roles that the actor has taken in the past, mostly Latino. He plays an exaggerated version of himself but he’s definitely having fun with it. Hollywood has changed so much in recent years but we can’t undo the past.

We need to talk about cultural appropriation. I don’t care if the filmmakers were going for a joke here. It didn’t land at all and only put a sour taste in my mouth for the rest of the screening. One joke can really ruin a film. This one has NO BUSINESS being in the movie. The gist is that director Jay Chandrasekhar plays Joe’s Hollywood agent, Nick. He’s not Jewish in the film but hosts a Passover Seder if it helps Jo land the sitcom part. No, no, no, and no. If you are not Jewish, you do not get to host Seders for Passover. If you are not Jewish and wish to attend a Passover Seder as a guest, feel free to do so. But hosting? That’s a major no-no and a cultural appropriation of Judaism.

The film otherwise means well with its pushing diversity on screen but culturally appropriating a Passover Seder for a joke runs very, very close to falling under antisemitism even if it wasn’t intentional. I’m not talking about a Christian Seder, something that has become a thing in recent years. I’m talking about a non-Jewish agent hosting a Passover Seder to help a client land an acting job. Personally, I would have cut the joke out of the film altogether but that’s just me. Also, Passover 2021 Seders fell on Sunday but Easter wasn’t the same weekend. In 2022, the holidays fell over the same weekend but Seders took place on Friday and Saturday night.

DIRECTOR: Jay Chandrasekhar
SCREENWRITERS: Ken Cheng and Kate Angelo
CAST: Jo Koy, Eugene Cordero, Tia Carrere, Asif Ali, and Lou Diamond Phillips, Jimmy O. Yang, Brandon Wardell, Eva Noblezada, Lydia Gaston, Rodney To, Jay Chandrasekhar, Tiffany Haddish

Universal will release Easter Sunday in theaters on August 5, 2022. Grade: 2.5/5

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.