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Joy Ride – Film Review

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joy ride film review
joy ride film review

There’s a common belief that outright comedies just aren’t made anymore. We’ve said pretty much that exact same thing in our No Hard Feelings review. Before this year, it had the ring of truth about it, but this year? There have been so many good comedy movies that we feel disingenuous saying it. 2023 might just be the year that big, broad, rude comedies come back. 

It’s fair to say that if you loved Bridesmaids, you will get a kick out of Joy Ride. The template is roughly the same. The main difference is that, rather than a hen-do, the comedy hitches a ride on a business trip. That business trip belongs to Audrey (Ashley Park, Only Murders in the Building), who is looking to close a deal in China. She was chosen by her boss because she has Chinese heritage, neglecting the fact that she was adopted by the whitest of white suburban families. 

Audrey has a dilemma: she’s lied about speaking fluent Chinese mandarin, so she ropes in her best friend from childhood, Lolo (comedian Sherry Cola) as a translator. But Lolo is a bit of a wild-card, a sex-positive artist who lives in Audrey’s basement. Lolo promises to behave, but that promise is thrown out of the door almost immediately when she brings Deadeye (Sabrina Wu), a socially awkward K- and J-Pop fan. Completing the troupe is Kat (Stephanie Hsu, the woman of the moment thanks to her Supporting Actor turn in Everything, Everywhere All At Once), who is a rival BFF of Audrey, and an actress performing in a Chinese soap. 

It’s a combustible group being brought into the sensitive environment of a business deal, so you can imagine what happens next. The tension’s not helped by Lolo’s determination that Audrey should use the trip to reconnect with her birth-mother. The adoption offices are round the corner from the business shenanigans, so the trip can be a two-fer. Audrey is less than interested, until Lolo accidentally lies that Audrey is bringing her mother to the party where the business deal is going down…

Joy Ride might not revolve around a wedding, but the set-up is similar to Bridesmaids (and The Hangover, now we think about it). There’s an important, must-get-right gig coming up, so a clock is ticking. But the team assembled for the mission are so dysfunctional, so determined to self-implode, that it’s constantly compromised. And when it’s compromised, it’s with body functions, ridiculous sex, public shows of embarrassment and just the right amount of cancel-culture-baiting controversy. 

It’s a recipe that hasn’t gotten old, even in the twelve years since Bridesmaids. And Adele Lim, writer-director here, but originally the writer on Crazy Rich Asians, knows exactly how to pull it off. It hits all the high and memorable notes that you’d expect from its forebears.

There’s more memorable scenes than you can shake a selfie stick at. Three of them can neatly be categorised as sex, drugs and K-pop. A tryst in a hotel leads to the four girls dominating an entire sports team, while an unwanted encounter in a train carriage leads to a swift need to get rid of some drugs, quick. We’re still not sure if the K-pop moment is a fever dream or not: it seems to come out of nowhere, leading to a hilarious moment of social media shaming. 

While we loved the K-pop sequence, it’s indicative of one of Joy Ride’s flaws: something that hurt the Hangover sequels in particular. At times, Joy Ride’s scenarios can feel very real, and it’s hilarious to watch the women all attempt to keep a handle on events as they keep on escalating. That’s when Joy Ride is at its best. When (relatively) normal people are riding the events of the film like a bucking bronco. 

But it’s when logic gets pushed out of a bullet-train window that Joy Ride is less successful. The team come up with plans that are outlandish and unlikely to say the least, and are more at home in an Airplane or Hot Shots than something that at least clings onto realism. The K-pop sequence and a trip to South Korea are two of the most egregious examples. It left us confused about what kind of movie we were watching. Was this an outright farce or a bawdy real-world comedy?

We only mention it because realism and social commentary are where Joy Ride absolutely nails it. It has a huge amount of interest to say, much like Crazy Rich Asians before it. Because Audrey, being of Chinese descent but not Chinese herself, finds it difficult to understand where she belongs. Her favourite bands are Maroon 5 and Mumford and Sons, yet the communities she grew up in are wary of including her. But the question of whether she can find a home, or at least some harmony, in China is tested repeatedly. 

There’s another, even subtler thread about narcissism. In a hotel bar, a young man notes that Audrey uses the first-person an awful lot, which isn’t enough of a wake-up call that she is being rather selfish about her actions. Instead, she ploughs on, heading for a reckoning about how it’s affecting her friends. This is a fantastic slow-build of a theme, and it only hits you towards the end of the movie. 

Joy Ride really is just as capable at making you feel deeply for its characters as it is making you squirm, laugh or gross out. We’ll make the comparison for the last time, but it’s a trick that Bridesmaids pulled off, and the two are just made for a double-bill. 
If you haven’t laughed out loud in a movie for a while then Joy Ride is the tonic. Just be wary of bringing along anyone prudish. Things get dirty.

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • Hilariously rude
  • Superb laughs-per-minute ratio
  • Has some meaty topics to raise
  • Whisks by at speed
Cons:
  • Loses its believability on occasion
  • Shares a familiar template with other movies
Info:
  • Purchased by TXH
  • Running time and release date - 1hr 34mins | 2023
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Hilariously rude</li> <li>Superb laughs-per-minute ratio</li> <li>Has some meaty topics to raise</li> <li>Whisks by at speed</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Loses its believability on occasion</li> <li>Shares a familiar template with other movies</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Purchased by TXH</li> <li>Running time and release date - 1hr 34mins | 2023 </ul>Joy Ride - Film Review
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