Greetings again from the darkness. Director Jay Chandrasekhar and co-writers Kate Angelo and Ken Cheng have crafted a tribute to the Filipino community, paying homage to family bonds and the culture. The obvious comparisons here are CRAZY RICH ASIANS (2018) and any number of Bollywood movies offering insight and a peek behind the curtain of Indian families. As global societies continue to disburse and intertwine with various races and cultures, it only makes sense for us to gain more understanding of each other … and what better way than through comedy?
In the film, real life comedian Jo Koy plays fictional comedian and aspiring actor Joe Valencia. Joe moved to Los Angeles, away from his Bay area family, to pursue a career in entertainment. It’s been a struggle, and he’s best known for a beer commercial where he looks into the camera and says, “Let’s get this party started, bayBee!” One of the recurring gags is how so many either recite the line to him, or plea with him to do so. Up for a big role in a TV pilot, Joe once again lets down his high school aged son, by attending an audition rather than a parent meeting at school. Junior (Brandon Wardell) is struggling a bit with his grades at the prestigious prep school he attends. See, Joe’s career as an actor might not be rolling, but his ex-wife is a powerful attorney married to a professional athlete.
The real fun begins as we see the tension between father and son on the road trip they make to join the rest of the family for Easter Sunday … an important day for Filipinos. Along the way, we experience two more of the film’s running gags: Joe’s mom (Lydia Gaston) pressuring him not just to show up, but to not be late, and Joe’s agent (played by director Chandrasekhar), whose use of ‘entering a tunnel, so I’ll be losing the connection’ is his standard way of ending a conversation when he’s done. Once they arrive, we get yet another running gag – the ongoing sister rivalry between Joe’s mom and his Tita Theresa (Tia Carrere). It’s a quick trip for Joe and Junior, but it’s filled with family drama, Joe’s impromptu stand-up in church, a love interest for Junior (Eva Noblezada), a run-in with a former lover (Tiffany Haddish) for Joe, a questionable business investment between Joe and his cousin Eugene (Eugene Cordero), a confrontation with a local gangster named Dev Deluxe (Asif Ali), and an all-in family karaoke song. There is even a Lou Diamond Phillips tie-in that adds a touch of class.
The writers and director have worked mostly in TV to this point, and that is just too obvious. A TV sitcom style rarely succeeds on the big screen, and though we do get some laughs, there is an amateurish feel to the proceedings. On the upside, some insight into Filipino culture is welcome, I now know Manny Pacquaio’s birthday, and it was my first exposure to “Hype Truck!”
Opens in theaters on August 5, 2022