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Review: Joy Ride (2023)

Joy Ride (2023)

Directed by: Adele Lim

Premise: A group of Asian-American friends travel to China when one of them has to close a business deal. Their trip becomes a debaucherous disaster.

What Works: Joy Ride is a road trip movie in the mold of The Hangover, National Lampoon’s Vacation, and Dumb & Dumber; a group of friends set out on a trip and disastrous hilarity ensues. Some of the comedies that were produced on the coattails of The Hangover were meanspirited, especially toward women. Joy Ride is not. The movie is gleefully lewd but it’s also upbeat and a good time for viewers who enjoy this sort of bawdy humor. Aside from the jokes, which consistently work in this film, road trip movies depend on the characters. Everyone in Joy Ride is distinct, their friendships are credible, and the core cast are game for the naughtiness. The film is led by Sabrina Wu, Stephanie Hsu, Ashley Park, and Sherry Cola. Each of these women have specific identities but they are more than stock types. In fact, each woman has a character arc and the comedy often comes out of their personal flaws and drives. The filmmakers add some additional texture to this buddy comedy by creating adversarial relationships among the women. While not quite frenemies, their relationships grow and change over the course of the story which enhances the value of the misadventures. Joy Ride also includes some thoughtful themes about identity and it is multifaced to address race, nationality, and socio-economic status. These themes enrich the comedy as well as the character development.

What Doesn’t: The title of Joy Ride is generic and is so is the plot. There is a standard series of plot beats typically found in buddies-on-the-road comedies and Joy Ride hits them all with little or no variation. The group of friends gets stranded, they bum transportation from an unlikely source, and eventually blowup and break up culminating with a reconciliation. There are some notable storytelling gaps. They women lose their luggage and with it their passports and cash. This ought to be a disaster that causes a series of cascading problems but the women are barely inconvenienced by it. Comedy can get away with a flimsy or conventional narrative if the characters are engaging and the jokes are funny and Joy Ride succeeds on both of those counts. However, humor relies on the subversion of expectation and this film offers few narrative surprises. Viewers ought to be able to map exactly where this story is going.

Bottom Line: Joy Ride’s plot may be predictable but it is very funny in a way that ought to delight fans of raunchy humor. It’s got a great cast and manages to insert a few interesting ideas about identity that elevate Joy Ride above the average road trip comedy.

Episode: #958 (July 23, 2023)