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‘Joy Ride’ (review)

Nothing says “summer fun” like gathering your friends and going on a road trip. It’s never the destination as much as the company — well, except for when your road trip is an international journey to close a major deal while finding your birth mother during your first visit to your home country.

Joy Ride is a raunchy, joyful, and extremely unfiltered R-rated comedy from first-time feature film screenwriters Cherry Chevapravatdumrong and Teresa Hsiao that punches hard from the first scene. Under the direction of Adele Lim, the witty and wild ensemble of Ashley Park, Sherry Cola, Sabrina Wu, and Stephanie Hsu balances lewd antics with sincerity in what is surely the best ensemble comedy in years.

Longtime best friends Audrey (Park) and Lolo (Cola) have differing levels of excitement to travel to Beijing.

Audrey is stressed by a significant opportunity to advance at her law firm that is tied to her status as the only Asian woman at the bro-filled office (nevermind that she knows little about her birth country and nothing of her adopted mother).

Lolo, a free-spirited but struggling artist, can’t wait to act as a translator for her friend while pursuing a promising side piece overseas.

The flashbacks of the two show an all too familiar tale of diverging goals.

Audrey is in all of the clubs, the honor societies, and embodies a “model minority” stereotype. Lolo bucks the system and convention at every turn, from her lack of financial independence (she lives in a tiny house in Audrey’s backyard) to her sexually explicit artwork.

Together, they are a perfect duo. But when we start adding more personalities, tensions arise and loyalties are tested.

On Lolo’s end, she immediately breaks her vow to focus on Audrey by inviting her K-pop loving socially awkward cousin Deadeye (Wu), along for the journey. Audrey is completely weirded out, but she has her own addition to the crew as her college roommate Kat (Hsu) has now become a major Chinese television star. Kat and Lolo are immediately threatened by each other but their snappy barbs fly in Chinese to make sure Audrey only sees the best in both. Deadeye is just happy to be along for the ride, and Wu’s straight-man comic relief provides some of the best laughs and warmest moments.

What begins in earnest as a professional business trip with a take-your-friend-to-work vibe quickly devolves into a comedy of errors filled with sex, drugs, a Baron Davis cameo, more drugs, some VERY surprising ink, a K-pop cover and one of the best twists I’ve seen in quite some time. It’s doubtful that you’ll see it coming, but it sets the film off down a surprising but rewarding path.

Every sight gag and dick joke lands, upping the bar for the next laugh. This is a dynamic foursome that manages to shine individually while seamlessly giving air to each other when needed. As the story gets more ludicrous the heartfelt bonds of sisterhood, chosen family, and self-discovery keep the audience grounded in the relationship between the 4 women. The film flies by, but the pacing deserves an award all its own. Clocking in at well under two hours, every scene feels needed and there isn’t a moment where the story drags while shifting from comedy to drama and back again.

Joy Ride gives the audience an experience deeply rooted in culture, from female friendships to transracial adoptions to Chinese family relations. Lim carefully guides the cast through the stellar script, making what could be a Road Trip style farce into something more earnest and entertaining than viewers will be expecting.

Make sure to grab your own motley crew and don’t miss one of the best journeys of this summer.

*  *  *  *  *
Produced by Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, James Weaver, Josh Fagen,
Cherry Chevapravatdumrong, Teresa Hsiao, Adele Lim

Screenplay by Cherry Chevapravatdumrong, Teresa Hsiao
Story by Cherry Chevapravatdumrong, Teresa Hsiao, Adele Lim
Directed by Adele Lim
Starring Ashley Park, Sherry Cola, Stephanie Hsu, Sabrina Wu,
Ronny Chieng, Meredith Hagner, David Denman, Annie Mumolo,
Timothy Simons, Daniel Dae Kim, Desmond Chiam

 

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