Joy Ride Review

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If there’s a funnier movie than Joy Ride in the next six months, 2023 will go down as the best year for R-rated comedies since Tropic Thunder stole Forgetting Sarah Marshall’s thunder. This statistic goes to show how few modern R-rated comedies have achieved instant classic status. Joy Ride joins the same ranks as The Hangover, Bridesmaids, and other laugh riots you immediately want to tell your friends about. You also want to promptly buy another ticket to catch any jokes you missed between the crowd’s roaring laughter the first time. In a summer where many mainstream movies have left no impression, Joy Ride is full of moments you’ll never be able to unsee (for better or worse… mostly better).

Hailing from Broadway, Ashley Park has established her screen presence on TV shows like Emily in Paris and Beef. Joy Ride is the movie star vehicle she’s been long overdue for. Park plays Audrey, who was adopted by a white American couple as a child. She makes fast friends with the newly arrived Lolo, the only other Asian girl in town. Growing up to be played by Sherry Cola, Lolo is the Oscar to Audrey’s Felix. In this case, though, Oscar crashes on Felix’s couch. Although opposites in almost every respect, you genuinely believe the friendship between these two. Not because they’re both Asian, but because they perfectly complement each other while simultaneously offsetting one another.

While Joy Ride owes much to Park and Cola, this ensemble piece extends beyond the odd couple. When Audrey sets out on a business trip to China, Lolo tags along with her K-pop-obsessed cousin Deadeye (Sabrina Wu). Following up her Oscar-nominated turn in Everything Everywhere All at Once, Stephanie Hsu gives another outrageous performance as Kat, Audrey’s tightly-wound friend who stars in a Chinese soap opera. Kat and Lolo find themselves locked in competition for Audrey’s BFF status. Audrey is more focused on sealing a deal, but the trip soon snowballs into a search for her biological mother.

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These four are worthy of a SAG Award for Outstanding Cast in a Motion Picture. There are no small roles in Joy Ride, however. Meredith Hagner mines comedic gold as a drug dealer who winds up on the same train as the friends. Several actors stand out in one of the funniest sex scenes ever committed to film, literally making you laugh to the point of hurting. There’s also a running gag involving a tattoo, culminating in a payoff that’s sure to inspire countless paused TVs on home media. About 90% of Joy Ride is nonstop laughter. The other 10% is surprisingly poignant.

While the gross-out humor is fearless, the film isn’t afraid to inject depth. It’s not just a meaningful story about friendship, but also culture, identity, and self-discovery. Yet, the deeper themes don’t distract from the comedy – and vice versa. Although Joy Ride is on brand for producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, it’ll be remembered for several other talents. After co-writing Crazy Rich Asians, Adele Lim makes a kinetic directorial debut. Writers Cherry Chevapravatdumrong and Teresa Hsiao of Family Guy balance laughs with heart in ways that few contemporary comedies have. Comedy may not always get the respect it deserves, but no genre is harder to master. Joy Ride feels like lightning in a bottle, but if this creative team can ever top themselves, welcome to a new comedy renaissance.

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About Nick Spake

Nick Spake has been working as an entertainment writer for the past ten years, but he's been a lover of film ever since seeing the opening sequence of The Lion King. Movies are more than just escapism to Nick, they're a crucial part of our society that shape who we are. He now serves as the Features Editor at Flickreel and author of its regular column, 'Nick Flicks'.

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