Movie enthusiasts can get a dose of Easter this summer with the new film Easter Sunday, released August 5th. It’s a comedy and certain scenes will make you laugh. At least they made me laugh out loud. Not only is a comical film, it is also a historic one, according to actor Jo Koy, because this movie brings together for the first time a complete Asian cast. As one might expect from Hollywood, it gets a few elements of faith wrong, and some people might think that it treats religion irreverently. Admittedly, I had to overlook a few things from my perspective of religion to enjoy the film. If a person can get beyond some of the noticeable issues, at the heart of the film’s story, you will find the main message communicated loud and clear by the movie’s end.
Correcting Easter Sunday’s Theology
The movie focuses on a man named Joe Valencia, a Filipino actor, who is returning home for the festivities of Easter Sunday with his large Filipino family. A statue of the Infant of Prague adorns a niche in his mom’s home, a statue he finds creepy because it’s as if the eyes follow you. Whenever Joe would make a comment about the baby Jesus statue, his mom would respond, “One day Baby Jesus will save you.” By the end of the movie, it proves true in ways you wouldn’t expect. From a theological perspective, the statement is errant. The movie is called Easter Sunday, a foundational theological belief of Christianity that tells us Jesus has already conquered sin and death. His death on the cross was to save us. He died for the salvation of the world. Joe Valencia has been saved by Jesus but now it is up to him to work out his salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12).
Liturgical Abuse at Easter Sunday Mass
I’m assuming the Valencia family is Catholic, based on the presence of the Infant of Prague in their home. The depiction of the family’s parish for Sunday Mass is far from what one would experience at a Catholic Mass. Joe Valencia, the comic actor in the story, is invited forward by the priest after the two had a back and forth from pulpit to pew. One would be hard pressed to find this take place at a Catholic parish during the Mass, and if it did, it would become a viral sensation with people from all liturgical perspectives opining. The vesture of the priest with a white chasuble and overlay green stole also would not be the proper dress for Easter Sunday. As Joe Valencia takes the mic, he reflects on family, and encourages his own family to bury the hatchet with each other so they could experience a familial resurrection.
Finding the Message
For me, every movie must have a worthwhile message. Easter Sunday is meant to make you laugh. Even with bad theology and liturgical abuses, you will be able to identify the takeaway from the movie. The family relationships in the film are tenuous. Joe has issues with his mom. Joe and his son have a difficulty communicating. Joe’s mom and his aunt are in a competition of who can always be better. Each character is carrying some past hurt or wound. They are holding on to things from years ago. If Easter Sunday communicates anything about the hope of Jesus risen from the dead, it is that family relationships can be restored when we let go of the past and forgive so healing can take place.
Should you see Easter Sunday?
If you enjoy comedies and like laughing, absolutely yes! Be aware the movie is rated PG-13 for strong language and suggestive references. My final takeaway from the movie was if you disagree with something in a character, it helps to reinforce the good behavior in your own life and making the choice to live a moral life. In this way, we can rise from the death of sin to new life promised to us by Jesus.