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Review: ‘Joy Ride’ Takes Viewers on a Raunchy and Riotous Road Trip with an Authentic, Big Heart

June 30, 2023Ben MK

The Asian experience and that of the Asian diaspora has been explored in a variety of films as of late; and, for many moviegoers, it's recognition that's long overdue. Whether it's the fantastical chaos of Everything Everywhere All at Once, the romantic drama of Crazy Rich Asians, or the superheroic action of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, on-screen representation within mainstream cinema is something that Asian filmmakers and actors have been striving for for years. But now that the proverbial glass ceiling has finally been shattered, where does the movie industry go from here?

Enter Joy Ride, a film that takes the next logical step for Asian representation by mashing up Crazy Rich Asians with the raunchy, R-rated humor of comedies like Bridesmaids, The Hangover and EuroTrip. Chronicling a group of Chinese American women's wild misadventures through China, the story follows Audrey (Ashley Park) and Lolo (Sherry Cola), a couple of 20-somethings from the mostly Caucasian town of White Hills, Washington. Best friends since a young Lolo and her parents moved there from California, the pair have always been inseparable, especially now with Lolo, a starving artist, being roommates with Audrey, who's made her adoptive parents proud by becoming a successful attorney. What Lolo doesn't realize, however, is that Audrey is planning to move to Los Angeles once she makes partner at her law firm. But before Audrey can do that, she'll have to travel to Beijing, where her boss wants her to help close a deal with a businessman named Chao (Ronny Chieng).

Seeing the trip as the perfect opportunity for some girl-to-girl bonding, Lolo convinces Audrey to let her tag along. And soon, Audrey's business trip is transformed into a vacation of sorts, with Lolo's cousin, BTS stan Deadeye (Sabrina Wu), and Audrey's college roommate, Kat (Stephanie Hsu), joining in on the fun as well. A Chinese soap opera actress who’s engaged to her hunky co-star (Desmond Chiam), Kat also happens to be the only one among the group capable of saving the day when Audrey's meeting with Chao goes off the rails. However, when all their passports are stolen on the way to their next stop, it puts their entire journey in jeopardy. Will this quartet be able to salvage things by calling in a favor from real-life basketball player Baron Davis? And can Sabrina's online friends be counted on to help them impersonate a K-pop girl group in order to secure a flight on a private jet?

Of course, with scenes like one in which the four friends must either consume or otherwise insert into their bodily orifices a variety of illicit drugs in order to avoid being arrested and thrown in jail, it's impossible to avoid the comparisons between Joy Ride and other bawdy genre movies, such as Girls Trip and Bad Moms. What distinctly sets Adele Lim's directorial debut apart, though, is the film's heartfelt emotional through line, as well as the unwavering fearlessness of screenwriters Cherry Chevapravatdumrong and Teresa Hsiao's script, especially when it comes to poking fun at a variety of Asian stereotypes, the experience of being Asian in America, and even the way that native residents of China consider those who are American-born Chinese as outsiders.

A hilarious comedy with heart, the result is a relatable and raunchy portrayal of friendship, sex, and what it's like to be part of the Asian diaspora. What's most impressive about Joy Ride, however, is that it's able to achieve all these objectives in equal measure, without having to sacrifice emotion for humor, or dull its sharp social commentary for entertainment value. Suffice to say, it's a testament to the filmmakers' commitment for telling an authentic yet over-the-top story. And for moviegoers looking for more than just a laugh, that's a ride worth taking.

Joy Ride releases July 7th, 2023 from Lionsgate Films. The film has an MPAA rating of R for strong and crude sexual content, language throughout, drug content and brief graphic nudity. Its runtime is 1 hr. 35 min.

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