Jo Koy Can Barely Handle His Family on ‘Easter Sunday’ – What Hope is There for the Rest of Us?

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Easter Sunday (CREDIT: Ed Araquel/Universal Pictures)

Starring: Jo Koy, Brandon Wardell, Lydia Gaston, Eugene Cordero, Tia Carrere, Jay Chandrasekhar, Eva Noblezada, Jimmy O. Yang, Lou Diamond Phillips, Tiffany Haddish, Asif Ali, Rodney To, Elena Juatco

Director: Jay Chandrasekhar

Running Time: 96 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Some Language and a Surprising Amount of Guns

Release Date: August 5, 2022 (Theaters)

What’s It About?: In what I assume is a semi-autobiographical riff, Easter Sunday stars Jo Koy as Joe Valencia, a struggling comedian who’s about to land a big break in the form of a regular role on a network sitcom. Unfortunately, it couldn’t be occurring on a more chaotic weekend in his personal life. He’s a divorced dad who really wants to spend more time with his teenage son Junior (Brandon Wardell). And oh yeah, it’s Easter, and his very Catholic Filipino family very much expects him to show up for that. But they’re certainly not going to hide any of their conflicts. His mom (Lydia Gaston) and aunt (Tia Carrere) have basically decided that they hate each other, while his cousin Eugene (Eugene Cordero) has hatched a harebrained scheme that has him in deep debt with a local vengeful businessman (Asif Ali). Is there enough time amidst all this for another famous Filipino-American actor to show up as himself? You better believe it!

What Made an Impression?: Before Easter Sunday, I was really only familiar with Koy as a boyfriend of Chelsea Handler’s, but he’s been hacking it on the comedy circuit for decades, so clearly he must have a fanbase. Alas, I’m sad to report that he hasn’t captured his humor into cinematic form, or maybe it just didn’t appeal to me. It’s not easy to make that translation even with the best screenwriting intentions, but I have to wonder: did we need the subplot about violent debt collection? Couldn’t this have just been the story of a comedian dealing with his overbearing, oversharing family while stressing out about his career? Now, if you want to aim high, then aim high. Maybe there’s a successful high-wire version of this movie where that gangster-ish storyline does fit, but I couldn’t help but wonder “Why is this happening?” every time Eugene told Joe about the next unbelievably stupid thing he did.

As for the rest of the movie, I can’t say I was satisfied much there either, but I at least respected everyone’s instincts. But most of the time, I was flummoxed by how unreasonable most of the characters were being. For example, why does Joe have to spend the whole weekend on the phone with his agent (Jay Chandrasekhar, who also directed and pretty much exclusively appears on camera alone)? And why is the network finalizing casting on a Sunday? EASTER Sunday, no less! Yes, I know, plenty of Hollywood executives are Jewish, but there are also plenty of Christians in showbiz as well. Couldn’t this all wait until Monday? To be fair, for a movie to be entertaining, it doesn’t need to be reasonable. But when it’s being profoundly unreasonable, it helps when there’s at least some acknowledgement, and there’s not much of that here.

Another thing that kind of got my goat was how there seemed to be more than 24 hours on this particular holiday. The family has a full-on picnic in the park for lunch, and then a plentiful homemade spread for dinner at Joe’s mom’s. And in between all that, Joe and Eugene are driving all over town to clean up Eugene’s mess. Do we have a crew of Jack Bauers on our hands here? A movie-time clock on the corner of the screen would have been appreciated.

There is one scene, though, that really worked for me, despite being equally nonsensical. I’m talking about when Joe interrupts the priest’s homily during mass and then basically delivers his standup routine about what it’s like to have a Filipino-American family. That would NEVER happen at a Catholic church, and certainly not on Easter Sunday. But it allows Koy to be in his element, and it’s rousing enough that you can forgive the breach of decorum.

Easter Sunday is Recommended If You Like: Weirdly violent family dinners

Grade: 1.5 out of 5 Burritos

This Is a Movie Review: In ‘The Mule,’ Clint Eastwood is an Unlikely Drug Trafficker Who Complains About the Internet

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CREDIT: Warner Bros.

This review was originally published on News Cult in December 2018.

Starring: Clint Eastwood, Bradley Cooper, Laurence Fishburne, Michael Peña, Dianne Wiest, Andy García, Isabel Eastwood, Taissa Farmiga, Ignacio Serricchio, Eugene Cordero

Director: Clint Eastwood

Running Time: 116 Minutes

Rating: R for Casual Racist Slurs and Showing Someone a Good Time (*Wink Wink*) for the Night

Release Date: December 14, 2018

The Mule does not need to feature casual racism and crankiness about how young people are ruining everything with their newfangled technology, but it stars and is directed by Clint Eastwood, so what are you gonna do? At this point in time, he can at least be entertaining as a self-parody. This is, after all, a movie in which he literally says “if you can’t open a fruit box without calling the Internet” and “Damn Internet, it ruins everything.” Or maybe this ultimate cinematic tough guy is actually self-aware and toying around with his reputation. In one moment, when he calls a black family “Negroes” while helping them change a tire, he does get chided for his ignorance. But it isn’t like that scene even needs to exist. Nor does there need to be a scene when he makes a connection with lesbian motorcyclists who proudly call themselves “dykes on bikes.” If The Mule is woke, it is simplistically so, which is fairly amusing, but also a little concerning.

There is a level of professionalism but also a lack of consideration that makes The Mule entertaining and imbues it with a strong message but also renders it shallow. The script is based on a New York Times article about the real-life story of Leo Sharp, who in his 80s became a drug mule for the Sinaloa Cartel. Eastwood plays Earl Stone, a fictionalized version of Sharp. He has spent decades dedicating himself to his horticulture career at the expense of his family, and now that the bottom has dropped out on his business, he finds himself turning to a much more lucrative and much more illegal profession.

The story of a man who never made time for his wife and daughter because he was too focused on his flowers is certainly different, but everything else about The Mule is predictable, sometimes worryingly so. Most of the characters who are people of color are cartel members, while all of the white characters are either Earl and his friends and family or DEA agents. That in and of itself is not wrong as it may very well reflect reality, but in 2018 it feels tone deaf not to more carefully consider that racial divide. And that really is a shame in this case, because The Mule actually does appear interested in taking a more unique approach to the material. The plot hinges on Earl realizing that it is never too late to be a good spouse and parent, a lesson he attempts to impart to his cartel handlers and the DEA agent on his tail (Bradley Cooper). It is a fascinating story on its own that also comes across on screen as mostly fascinating, but it’s spiked with a few too many shots of Eastwood crankiness.

The Mule is Recommended If You Like: The Crankiness and Casual Racism of Late-Era Clint Eastwood

Grade: 3 out of 5 Dykes on Bikes for Entertainment Value/2 out of 5 Stereotypes for Social Value