Joy Ride Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Adele Lim
Stars: Ashley Park, Sherry Cola, Sabrina Wu, Stephanie Hsu, Ronny Chieng, David Denman, Annie Mumolo, Kenneth Liu, Debbie Fan, Desmond Chiam, Meredith Hagner, Daniel Dae Kim.
Not to be confused with the 2001 drama of the same name that starred Paul Walker, Steve Zahn and Leelee Sobieski as a trio of travelers pursued by a homicidal trucker, this Joy Ride is a raunchy comedic road trip that comes across as a combination of Crazy Rich Asians, the gross out humour of The Hangover and the crude female centric comedy of Bridesmaids. The film has been produced by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (Superbad, etc), so audiences know what to expect.
The film follows the comedic hijinks of a quartet of young Chinese American women, friends on a journey as they bond, learn more about themselves and each other and also test the limits of their friendship.
Audrey (Ashley Park, from the tv series Beef, etc) and Lolo (Sherry Cola, from the animated film Turning Red, etc) have been friends since childhood. Audrey was born in China but adopted by a white American couple (David Denman and Annie Mumolo), and on an outing to a local playground she befriended Lolo who punched out a young boy who had been making racist comments. One montage later the two are adults, with Lolo living in Audrey’s converted garage. Audrey is an ambitious, overachieving lawyer who works for a high-powered firm while the irreverent Lolo is a struggling artist who creates sexually explicit art works. Then Audrey is sent overseas to China to help negotiate a lucrative deal and is promised a promotion upon the successful conclusion of the deal. Lolo tags along as her interpreter, and she is accompanied by her cousin Vanessa, who now goes by the name Deadeye (Sabrina Wu, in her feature film debut), a K-pop obsessed wannabe rap star. While in China Audrey also visits her best friend and former college roommate Kat (Stephanie Hsu, from Everything Everywhere All At Once, etc), who is now an actress starring in a popular television soap.
A drunken night out with the client Chao (stand-up comic Ronny Chieng) leads to complications. He suggests that to close the deal he should meet Audrey’s birth family. Lolo and Deadeye convince Audrey to visit her birth mother and they track her down through a detective agency. What follows is a raucous road journey complete with sexual encounters with a basketball team and a train ride with a drug smuggler.
Joy Ride has been written by Adele Lim (Crazy Rich Asians, etc), Cherry Chevapravatdumrong (a writer on Family Guy, etc) and Teresa Hsaio (Fresh Off The Boat, etc), and the film follows the traditions of other road movies. The script delivers plenty of laugh out loud moments and witty one-liners, but the trio of writers also explore themes of identity, culture, family, sisterhood, race and gender, and also deals with the challenges faced on a daily basis by American Asian women. The film offers an Asian female perspective on the usual gross out humour of this genre, and most of the raunchy jokes land. However, the narrative does sometimes have an episodic feel.
Lim also makes her directorial debut here and she maintains a nice balance between the raunchy humour and moments of emotional honesty. She draws solid performances from the central quartet of stars, who are all fine and they throw themselves into their roles with glee. They seem to be having fun with their roles and bring some energy to the material. Despite their at times over the top behaviour the four leads are all likeable. Parks lends a vulnerability to her Audrey. The role of the irreverent, motormouthed Lolo seems to have been written with Awkwafina in mind, and Cola does a good job of channeling her brash and over-the-top style.
Cinematographer Paul Yee (Reality, etc) has done a great job with the visuals and his rich cinematography captures the neon lit glitter of modern Beijing as well as the landscapes of rural China.