Joy Ride (Theatrical)

Follows four Chinese-American friends as they bond and discover the truth of what it means to know and love who you are, while they travel through China in search of one of their birth mothers.

July 7, 2023 7 Min Read

Review by: Matt Malouf

Plot: What’s it about?

I was fully prepared to write a review of Joyride raving about what a good time it was. I love a good R-Rated comedy that lets loose and offers a good time. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. I will dive more into this in a bit, but to say I was let down would be a small understatement. I’m sure other reviewers of all sorts would agree that it’s a lot more fun writing about a film you either loved or loathed rather than one that’s just kind of there. By no means is this film awful, but it simply didn’t deliver on the good time promised by the trailers. This may be a case like the recent No Hard Feelings that not only did I review, but the ads gave away most of the funny bits. Granted, No Hard Feelings did improve for me a bit on the second viewing, I don’t see that happening with Joy Ride. A large thanks to the former film was that Jennifer Lawrence gave a very committed and proper performance. I don’t think the cast here shines as brightly as she did in her film. Nevertheless, let’s take a closer look, shall we?

In an early scene taking us back to 1998, we see a young girl with her Asian parents not sure what to make of the playground which is filled with all white kids. A couple speaks to them, and we see that they have an Asian daughter as well. She was adopted, and the two girls begin a friendship that will carry them to the present. The girls are Audrey (Ashley Park) and Lolo (Sherry Cola). Audrey is the more successful of the two as she is now a lawyer, and Lolo lives with her in the backyard in a separate house. Lolo makes anatomical art, but it has yet to take off. Audrey is tasked with going to China to close a deal. Since she doesn’t speak a lot of Chinese, Lolo is assisting here. Also joining is Kat (Stephanie Hsu) who is Audrey’s old roommate and friend as well as actress. Also joining them is Deadeye (Sabrina Wu), Lolo’s eccentric cousin. To say she’s a little strange would be seriously downplaying it. The elephant in the room for Audrey is finding out who her birth mother is. It’s brought up early in the picture, but after a local in China tells Audrey how important family is, this plants a seed and sets the wheels in motion. What you can expect here is a lot of dirty humor and the ladies spewing out vulgarity any chance they get. This won’t be for the more conservative-minded audiences. And I’m perfectly fine with it not being just so long as it makes me laugh. It didn’t. The trailers have spoiled a lot of the gags, which include our leads being on a train with a drug dealer which causes the girls to consume and/or hide the drugs in places you don’t want to know. There’s also a rendezvous with some basketball players which leads to intercutting the girls and their sexual escapades. The scene should be funnier than it is. There’s also a gag where the girls pretend to be K-Pop singers (similar to the recent Book Club in which the ladies pretend to be singers). This all leads to a running joke where we see a tattoo in a private area. If this sounds like your thing, then maybe it’ll play funnier for you. I found a lot of it rather stale.

As I sat watching Joy Ride, I had the same feeling I had when I first watched The Hangover and that was wondering just exactly when will the film get funny. Now, to be fair, I found Hangover quite entertaining, but much more amusing than downright funny. I also liked the four leads. Unfortunately, here, I just didn’t feel a strong connection to the characters. It basically throws anything and everything at us to see what sticks. I wasn’t bored by it, but there was a feeling of lost potential. You won’t have to look hard to find dozens of glowing reviews, so it may very well be your cup of tea. I was fully on board and ready to laugh, but the jokes just didn’t land for me. I can appreciate the R-Rating and not compromising, but really this is just a cookie-cutter film that starts as a comedy and turns serious by the last third. It follows a lot of familiar beats. All this could be forgiven if it just provided enough laughs to compensate for that. I enjoyed Bridesmaids very much, and this is in a similar style (though casting Asians in the lead being the obvious difference), but the jokes just didn’t land for me.

The Bottom Line

Chalk this up as a minor disappointment for me in what’s shaping up to be just a so-so summer. I was fully prepared to write a glowing review of Joyride and how much I enjoyed it and laughed. Unfortunately, it just missed the mark much of the time. What played rather funny in the ads just felt stale in the finished film. I didn’t care for the characters or really find them all that interesting. Take away the vulgarity and women using profanity and speaking all too freely then you’re left with a rather familiar and pedestrian film. I wanted to like it, but I didn’t. I’d advise skipping this one.