'Joy Ride' review: Take this hilarious and endearing R-rated comedy for a spin
Courtesy of Lionsgate
Another welcome return to raunchy R-rated comedies after the moderate success of the Jennifer Lawrence starrer “No Hard Feelings, Adele Lim’s debut film “Joy Ride,” which features an incredible and diverse cast made up of Ashley Park, Stephanie Hsu, Sherry Cola, and Sabrina Wu, is an endearing story about friendship amid the backdrop of some wild set pieces. They include a barrage of binge-drinking episodes, an accidental drug mule operation, and a very NSFW encounter with a men’s basketball team. It's easily the best comedy of its kind since “Bridesmaids” and should hopefully find an audience through word of mouth, which, if the reaction from my packed screening was any indication, should be very healthy.
The journey follows Audrey (Park), an adoptee who grew up in a Caucasian household and was best friends with Lolo (Cola), the only other little girl of color on her street. Their foundation was set when Audrey met a pair of racist bullies on the playground and Lolo wasted no time punching one of them in the face. It’s a hilarious opening sequence that immediately sets the tone writers Cherry Chevapravatdumrong and Teresa Hsiao are fostering as the movie pivots away from their childhood into adulthood where the two are living vastly different lifestyles.
Years later, Audrey is now a successful, overworked lawyer on the verge of a major promotion while Lolo struggles to monetize her artwork that’s inspired by various parts of the human anatomy. When Audrey is sent to China to close a deal with a major client that could reshape her entire life, Lolo suggests tracking down her biological mother.
Along for the ride are Lolo’s K-pop obsessed cousin Deadeye (Wu – in a scene stealing performance) and an old college roommate who is now a massive Chinese superstar named Kat played by “Everything Everywhere All At Once” Oscar nominee Hsu. And what was supposed to be an open and shut trip to close a lucrative business deal, ends up becoming a journey of self-discovery as Audrey’s big-wig client fears she isn’t “authentic” and that, for their company to feel comfortable moving forward, she needs to prove her heritage and that means finding her long lost mother.
The key ingredient for any buddy comedy to work, as “Bridesmaids” or “The Joy Luck Club” have told us, is chemistry. The laughs and zingers can come in all shapes and sizes, but if we don’t believe the central relationships or can suspend our disbelief enough to watch the characters become entangled in these outlandish situations (at one point the girl squad performs a rollicking rendition of Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP” to the tune of K-Pop), then you’re doomed from the start.
Luckily, that’s not a problem for “Joy Ride,” a comedy that shapes its own winning comedic formula with a solid, believable story about identity and belonging. For Audrey, being an adoptee with little to no connection to her past life, it presents an interesting gaze of the Asian experience in a way that also has a little something for everyone. The filmmakers maintain a delicate balance of finding the sincerity even when some elements feel a bit timid or rushed to completion (considering the movie keeps a tight 90-ish minute runtime, that can be expected). But “Joy Ride” never loses sight of the characters and their challenges (good and bad), resulting in plenty of memorable sequences where the cast, through sheer unwavering commitment, more than meet the moment.
A joy ride indeed.
JOY RIDE opens in theaters everywhere Friday, July 7th.