Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith, media & culture: 08/05/22

Amazon Prime Video drops two family-friendly movies today. The Jo Koy-starring comedy Easter Sunday and the Ron Howard-directed real-life drama Thirteen Lives should keep your sofa occupied as you stay inside over what looks to be a hot and wet weekend for much of the country. My review of Easter Sunday follows the trailer and synopsis below.

Synopsis:  Stand-up comedy sensation Jo Koy stars as a struggling actor, comedian, and single father who returns home for an Easter celebration with his riotous, bickering, eating, laughing, and loving family, in this love letter to his Filipino-American community. The PG-13 film co-stars Lydia Gaston, Brandon Wardell, Eva Noblezada, Jay Chandrasekhar (who also directs), Tia Carrere and Lou Diamond Phillips (as himself).

IMHO: Though it was a mystery to me why a studio would release a film called Easter Sunday in August (until I asked Koy about it), it’s no mystery to me why Jo Koy is considered a hot up-and-coming movie and TV star. He’s got a natural sorta Tim Allen quality about him that really works on screen. As someone who married into a Filipino family and has spent a lot of my professional life around comedians and working in the TV industry, I’m naturally attracted to a story about a comedian of Filipino heritage balancing his family and burgeoning TV sitcom career.

There’s so much to mine in the Filipino culture and the overall premise of the movie is very, very promising. The early scenes sing and the cast, led by Koy and supported by Lydia Gaston as his mother and Jay Chandrasekhar as his pragmatic agent, makes for a terrific ensemble. Unfortunately, maybe a third of the way through the film the script abruptly shifts from ringing true and being relatable to something else altogether.

Things begin to go downhill with the scene in which Koy’s Joe (with an “e”) Valencia character somehow ends delivering a mid-mass comedy monologue from the altar. It’s not offensive. It just is not at all likely to happen and strikes the first really false note of the film. From there, a plot about a family member’s debt to street thugs and boxing gloves stolen from boxing champ Manny Pacquiao veers the plot wildly off course. The movie goes from being a warm and wry My Big Fat Greek Wedding-style ethnic family comedy that works to a light action film that strains.

All that said, these actors and characters provide a lot to with. Ironically, a network executive in the film describes the kind of series she’d like to develop for Koy’s Joe Valencia character. She’s right on the money in describing the sort of warm, funny and relatable track this movie began on and should have adhered to.

I know ABC is looking to develop an actual sitcom for Koy. All the ingredients for a winner is right in the first 20 minutes or so of Easter Sunday. Lose the rest, call it The Jo Show and the network could find itself with a hit on its hands.

Also on Prime Video this weekend: Thirteen Lives recounts the incredible true story of the tremendous global effort to rescue a Thai soccer team who become trapped in the Tham Luang cave during an unexpected rainstorm. Faced with insurmountable odds, a team of the world’s most skilled and experienced divers – uniquely able to navigate the maze of flooded, narrow cave tunnels – join with Thai forces and more than 10,000 volunteers to attempt a harrowing rescue of the twelve boys and their coach. With impossibly high stakes and the entire world watching, the group embarks on their most challenging dive yet, showcasing the limitlessness of the human spirit in the process. Note: I have not had the opportunity to review this movie but with such a tension-filled and inspiring true story at its core, it’s hard to imagine that director Ron Howard isn’t in the midst of launching another Apollo 13-type hit.

John W. Kennedy is a writer, producer and media development consultant specializing in television and movie projects that uphold positive timeless values, including trust in God.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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