Flix at :48: Joy Ride
The road trip or vacation comedy sub-genre is like the cobb salad of comedy films to me. It's never my first choice, but it's fine if nothing else is available. That's what I was thinking when watching the new release Joy Ride. And just like a cobb salad, some parts are tasty and some parts are terrible.
Joy Ride is a raunchy rated-R comedy about four, young, Chinese-American women who travel to Beijing for a business trip. Some of the travelers are interpreters, some are tagalongs, and not all are friends with each other, as the trip devolves into an epic journey of survival with hidden bags of cocaine, a threesome, colorful K-pop costumes, and a shockingly intimate tattoo. First-time director for this film is Adele Lim (co-writer for Raya and the Last Dragon, 2021) who manages to balance the high energy comedic scenes with the calmer heartfelt ones through a relaxed assurance and confidence.
What's nice about Joy Ride is it's not just about the rowdy irreverence of girlfriends traveling in China. It's also about one woman's identity of being born in China but being raised by white parents in the United States. So this one woman ends up searching for her birth mother on the trip in an effort to better understand her background. That part of the story makes Joy Ride a sincere (although short) exploration of Asian-American individuality in addition to the funny zany moments with illegal drugs and foreign cocktails.
Joy Ride follows in the footsteps of the other female-centered comedies released earlier this year Book Club: The Next Chapter and Polite Society. The actual logistics of travel, wardrobe changes, and flawless hair and makeup are not tethered to reality in this film. But that's not a concern for this film, and its four female stars more than make up for it with their distinct charm and commitment. These four women are the graceful Ashley Park (Mr. Malcolm's List, 2022); the playful Sherry Cola (Turning Red, 2022); the robotic Sabrina Wu (Styx & Stones, 2022); and the snobby Stephanie Hsu (Everything Everywhere All at Once 2022).
Some tonal shifts are way too fast, and the ending scenes of resolution are written with way too much forced sentimentality. But Joy Ride made me laugh more than once or twice, and it put a smile on my face. And who doesn't enjoy smiling at the movies?