Joy Ride

July 7th, 2023




As I walked out of my screening of Joy Ride, I heard two older women stating that they thought the comedy was “gratuitous” and “too much”. I couldn’t help but wonder why they felt this way and if the leading cast was made up of say, Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms, and the other guy (I know it’s Justin Bartha) would they feel the same? What I am getting at is that women in comedy seem to still be held to a different standard, a level that is not only unfair but seemingly impossible to climb over. A few weeks ago a certain film critic was claiming that No Hard Feelings was “embarrassing for Jennifer Lawrence” and already this week another critic has claimed that Joy Ride is “raunchy simply to be raunchy”. The fact of the matter is that Joy Ride is hilarious. It’s a girl’s trip that goes off the rails fast and jumps onto a track headed to non-stop laughter. This is the best comedy of 2023.

At the center of Joy Ride is a story about friendship. Audrey (Ashley Park) and Lolo (Sherry Cola) are best friends. They were the only Asian kids in their school together and now in their adult lives they still have a tight bond. Audrey was adopted by two white parents, is a successful lawyer, and is under constant pressure to become a partner in her firm. Lolo is the daughter of Chinese immigrants, an abstract artist, making sex-positive sculptures that are both hilarious and creative. When Audrey is given the task to go to China to close a big legal contract, it’s a chance for the two of them to go back to their birthland, and tagging along is the baggage of Lolo’s oddball cousin Deadeye (Sabrina Wu) and meeting up with Audrey’s old college friend Kat (Stephanie Hsu). Should be a fun trip without any embarrassing or wild moments…right? Not exactly.

Right off the bat, what makes Joy Ride such a fun movie is the chemistry and comedic timing of all four ladies. Each has an entirely different personality and isn’t there to just check off boxes. Parks is the obvious star, while Hsu is the one with dynamite side comments, Wu is out of left field funny, and Cola nearly walks away with the film. There is a unique combination of obvious improvisational jokes and what is also written on the page. It’s reminiscent of the style that Will Ferrell and Adam McKay perfected.

The screenplay, written by Cherry Chevapravatdumrong, and Teresa Hsiao, with the story from director Adele Lim, is not just a uniquely Asian narrative (Although that is clearly a part of it), or just the struggles of being a woman (Once again, it obviously will relate more with women), but it really is about being a person. The difference, however, is that Lim allows her characters to just be themselves. When you combine the raunchy comedy with the honest and sweet it becomes a movie that anyone can relate with. The struggles of friendships growing apart, jealousy, finding a place to fit in, and pressures to settle down are all present in all four characters.

But this is also a comedy and Joy Ride is never afraid to put its characters in outlandish situations. It’s very much The Hangover meets Girls Trip, where the four characters are in a new place, and can go crazy quickly. What transpired at a nightclub involved drinking games and face-slapping. A train ride is where they meet a passenger with copious amounts of drugs, sending them all into a whacked-out binge of cocaine and pills. Lim also turns her narrative into the straight-up outlandish where the ladies are forced to pretend to be a K-Pop group just to get themselves on an airplane without passports. Blending it all is not an easy task and it works.

By the end, Joy Ride will have you laughing your butt off. Although its shortcomings arrive in not every joke landing and a plot that has been done before, those are still minor roadblocks. It isn’t just all raunch all the time either. There is a soft and gentle message about family and friendship, the kind of message we’ve seen before in American Pie, Superbad, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and Neighbors. The only difference is this is four women and they can be just as raunchy as their male counterparts. What I’m trying to say is, just enjoy the ride.



Written by: Leo Brady

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