Joy Ride movie poster

Joy Ride

In theaters July 7, 2023


92 minutes

Official Selection:

Directed by:

Starring: , , ,

There are comedies and then there are comedies. Comedies are funny, they make you laugh from time to time but leave nothing lasting. Recent release No Hard Feelings is a good example. Jennifer Lawrence’s new film has a few laughs here and there yet at the same time is completely forgettable. Comedies are movies that really make you laugh. You know the laughing that at times hurts so much it feels good? Or laughing so hard you need to wipe away the tears? They’re the movies and lines that you talk about for days, weeks, and years later. That’s Joy Ride, an uproarious new film from Family Guy writers, Cherry Chevapravatdumrong (no, that’s not a misspelling) and Teresa Hsaio and, making her directorial debut, Adele Lim, screenwriter of another memorable Asian-cast film, Crazy Rich Asians. A movie that isn’t just sex jokes (although there are certainly plenty), Joy Ride balances heart and humor while showcasing the power of friendship much like the early days of Sex and the City.

Opening in 1998 when a young Audrey (Isla Rose Hall) meets a young Lolo (Chloe Pun), the girls instantly hit it off after foul-mouthed Lolo protects Audrey from a playground bully. Audrey is new to an all-white suburb of Seattle, and as the adopted daughter of clueless white parents, she is thrilled to meet another girl that looks like her. As they age, Audrey (Ashley Park) grows up to become the stereotypical Asian woman, the best at everything she does – from racketball to the boardroom. Lolo (Sherry Cola), meanwhile, lives her life on her own terms as an uncouth artist challenging the status quo.

On the verge of a promotion at her law firm, Audrey is sent to China to secure an important client with the belief that she can speak Chinese (she can’t). Out of loyalty to Lolo, Audrey brings her to act as her translator. And alongside the two of them, and much to Audrey’s dismay, is Lolo’s immensely awkward cousin, Deadeye (Sabrina Wu) who Lolo invites to tag along. While visiting China, the threesome also meet up with Audrey’s college best friend, Kat (Stephanie Hsu). Together, the four women set out to help Audrey land her client. But when everything goes awry, Audrey is forced to produce her birth mother in order to save the deal and prove that she isn’t just another American Asian who forgot where she came from. Madness and hilarity ensues as the women set out to find Audrey’s birth mom before it’s too late.

Lim taking the reins for the first time puts together a stellar cast that includes Park stepping out of the shadows of her supporting role as Mindy in Emily in Paris and portraying a character who doesn’t really know who she is, who she wants to be, nor really where came from. Following strong performances in Emily in Paris Beef, Park sets herself up well for future lead roles. Wu nails deadpan delivery as Deadeye. Unfairly Cola will likely be compared to another Asian actress/comedian, Awkafina, but unlike the in-demand actress, Cola feels more natural on screen. And Hsu captures a different set of struggles than Park as someone willing to do whatever it takes to move beyond her wilder younger years.

Whereas the 80’s, 90’s, and aughts introduced some of the greatest raunchy comedies of all time, the country seemed to gradually lose its sense of humor as the 2020’s approached. The pandemic didn’t help and it seemed like hilarious, bawdy films were going to be relics of the past. But then 2023 rolled around and studios decided to re-introduce the genre as more people make their way back to theaters. Unlike the mediocre performing No Hard Feelings which only screened for fans and critics days before the film’s release – usually the sign of a studio’s lack of faith in a film – Joy Ride took a different approach. Initially premiering at SXSW to rave reviews, film execs held nearly weekly screenings up until its release date, to help the movie ride the wave of positive word of mouth. While it’s too early to know whether it will work, Joy Ride is worthy enough to join the ranks classic raunchy films like Porky’s, American Pie, and The Hangover.

And above else, it will leave you forever feeling differently about a certain Looney Tunes character.

Joy Ride is streaming now on the following services:
Movie Reelist Contributor: Mark Eaton
Mark is an entertainment junkie, spending much of his leisure time watching movies, TV, or listening to any and all genres of music. Most evenings, after finishing a day of work and hanging with his wife and kids, Mark can be found in an eternal battle with his DVR, trying to clear it before another 5-6 hours of shows are recorded the next day. Still reeling from his unpaid gig for the Detroit News where he was fired for being too cruel with his American Idol recaps, Mark is thrilled to be sharing his wicked sense of humor with Movie Reelists.

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