Film Critique: ‘Joy Ride’ Elevates Gross-out Humor with a Stellar Ensemble

by Chloe Baker
Joy Ride Movie Review

or stay undecided.

This is often determined by a pivotal comedic moment early on. If the humor works, you’re hooked for the next two hours, laughing even at the crudest of jokes (consider the infamous bridal dress scene in “Bridesmaids”). If not, you’re sidelined, feeling unexpectedly prudish.

In the raucously messy and no-barriers comedy “Joy Ride,” helmed by first-time director Adele Lim, this defining moment occurred for me when Ashley Park gulped down a repugnant drink in a contest, maintaining composure despite apparent internal revolt. Genuine comedic talent can’t be fabricated. Park captivated me from that gulp (and solidified her hold with a fantastic Gollum impression.)

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But what’s remarkable about “Joy Ride,” a comedy that fully justifies its R rating — including a full-frontal display of a genital tattoo — is that each member of the splendid ensemble delivers similarly arresting performances.

Park, in the role of a driven, high-strung lawyer, has the most challenging part, providing humor while grounding the narrative, and making us both laugh and cry. Yet her co-stars — comic Sherry Cola as an exuberantly irreverent, struggling artist, Sabrina Wu as her awkward, K-pop fanatic cousin, and the magnificent Stephanie Hsu as a soap opera diva — each hold their own in delivering comedic brilliance. The level of comfort with the film’s crass humor may vary among viewers, but the shared hilarity is undeniable.

We first encounter Audrey, an adopted child in suburban Washington state, when her white parents introduce Lolo, from a Chinese family, as a friend for their daughter. A lifelong friendship begins when the audacious Lolo triumphs over a white racist bully in the park.

Fast forward to the present. Audrey, now a ruthlessly competitive lawyer, lives in the same hometown — appropriately named White Hills — while Lolo resides nearby. Audrey’s boss offers a major promotion and relocation to Los Angeles if she can secure an important deal in Beijing.

However, Audrey doesn’t speak Mandarin, leading her to seek Lolo’s help as a translator. Lolo believes Audrey’s problems extend beyond her language deficiency; she’s disconnected from her Asian heritage. This, Lolo thinks, is the perfect opportunity for Audrey to establish her cultural roots and possibly locate her birth mother.

In Beijing, Audrey survives a night of intense drinking with a potential client, who takes a liking to her until he discovers her lack of connection to China. To salvage the deal, Audrey and her crew embark on a road trip to find her birth mother, accompanied by Deadeye, Lolo’s cousin, and Kat, Audrey’s sexually frustrated former college roommate turned soap opera star. Hsu, fresh from her breakthrough role in “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” demonstrates tremendous comedic potential.

Though the storyline is wild and occasionally contrived, it opens up ample opportunities for comedy. Screenwriters Cherry Chevapravatdumrong and Teresa Hsiao tackle themes of identity, assimilation, and anti-Asian racism, both blatant and subtle, even within the Asian community itself.

For instance, while searching for a “safe” train compartment, Audrey passes over several Chinese passengers but settles with a blonde American woman, who turns out to be a drug dealer. This scene, involving the stashing of significant amounts of cocaine in unthinkable places, also exposes Audrey’s ingrained racism.

Eventually expelled from the train and rescued by a basketball team (just go with it), the group endures a wildly inappropriate night before being stranded once again. The comedic climax arrives with a K-pop number so sexually explicit that it could make viewers blush — if they weren’t too busy laughing.

Even when confronted with a bold, X-rated tattoo, laughter prevails.

The tone shifts dramatically when Audrey’s visit to her birth mother takes an unexpected turn, transitioning from laughter to tears. Sniffles echoed in the theater during my viewing, proving this sudden shift was universally felt.

How did this happen? Simple: Park and her co-stars earned it.

“Joy Ride,” a Lionsgate release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for “strong and crude sexual content, language throughout, drug content and brief graphic nudity.” It has a runtime of 95 minutes and earns a solid three out of four stars.

MPAA R rating definition: Restricted. Those under 17 require an accompanying parent or adult guardian.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Joy Ride Movie Review

What is the movie “Joy Ride” about?

“Joy Ride” is a raucously messy and no-barriers comedy about a competitive lawyer named Audrey who embarks on a journey to Beijing to secure an important business deal. She later undertakes a road trip to find her birth mother, accompanied by an eccentric ensemble of characters.

Who are the main characters in “Joy Ride”?

The main characters in “Joy Ride” include Audrey, played by Ashley Park, who is a driven and high-strung lawyer; Sherry Cola as an exuberantly irreverent, struggling artist; Sabrina Wu as Audrey’s awkward, K-pop fanatic cousin; and Stephanie Hsu as a soap opera diva.

Who directed “Joy Ride”?

“Joy Ride” is directed by first-time director Adele Lim.

What themes does “Joy Ride” explore?

“Joy Ride” tackles themes of identity, assimilation, and anti-Asian racism, both blatant and subtle, even within the Asian community itself.

What is the MPAA rating of “Joy Ride”?

“Joy Ride” has been rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for strong and crude sexual content, language throughout, drug content, and brief graphic nudity.

How long is the runtime of “Joy Ride”?

The running time of “Joy Ride” is 95 minutes.

How many stars did “Joy Ride” receive in the review?

“Joy Ride” received three out of four stars in the review.

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MandarinMastery July 8, 2023 - 1:49 am

Wait, they go to Beijing but she doesnt speak Mandarin? Talk about a fish outta water. Cant wait to see how this plays out, lol.

LaughOutLouder July 8, 2023 - 10:14 am

Ha, sounds like Bridesmaids on steroids! This review’s got me itching to see it. bring on the gross out humor, baby!

MovieBuff88 July 8, 2023 - 3:28 pm

Gross out humor isnt my thing, but if the review says its got heart, might give it a shot. who knows, could be the surprise of the summer.

SeriousCinephile July 8, 2023 - 8:48 pm

As a film student, I’m pretty skeptical bout this one. Comedy’s a tough genre, and gross-out humor isn’t for everyone, u know.


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