Joy Ride

Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5

Joy Ride
dir Adele Lim
scr Cherry Chevapravatdumrong, Teresa Hsiao
prd Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, James Weaver, Josh Fagen, Cherry Chevapravatdumrong, Teresa Hsiao, Adele Lim
with Ashley Park, Sherry Cola, Stephanie Hsu, Sabrina Wu, Ronny Chieng, Meredith Hagner, David Denman, Annie Mumolo, Timothy Simons, Daniel Dae Kim, Desmond Chiam, Baron Davis
release US 7.Jul.23,
UK 4.Aug.23
23/US Lionsgate 1h35

chieng mumolo kim

Is it streaming?

hsu, wu, park and cola
With a script that's snappy, pointed and as funny as it is vulgar, this comedy is packed with witty culture-clash humour and broadly slapstick nuttiness. Director Adele Lim leans a bit too heavily into both the shock-value jokes and a narrative that's extremely contrived. But there are serious ideas that add to a strong exploration of identity and legacy. And the characters are both messy and engaging.
Since childhood, Audrey (Park) and Lolo (Cola) have taken on the world together as the only Chinese girls in their Seattle neighbourhood. Now, lawyer Audrey is travelling to China for the first time, with provocative artist Lolo as her translator, along with Lolo's K-pop-fan cousin Deadeye (Wu). In Beijing they meet up with Audrey's university friend Kat (Hsu), an actress engaged to her outrageously hunky but celibate costar (Chiam). To impress her business colleague (Chieng), Audrey sets out with her friends to find her biological mother, but their quest soon spirals wildly out of control.
Making the most of several great settings, the story moves briskly between beautiful landscapes, bustling cities and hyper-cool nightclubs. There's also a trip to the set of Kat's hilariously melodramatic and blood-soaked Chinese soap The Emperor's Daughter. And on a visit to Lolo and Deadeye's boisterous family, things get very lively indeed. But while some plot points are just to ridiculous to go along with, there are also little moments of serious drama and deeper feelings amid the wackiness.

The overachiever Audrey was adopted at birth by white parents (Denman and Mumolo), and Park gives a likeably complex performance as a young woman who is still working out where she belongs. She has great chemistry with both Cola and Hsu, who have fun adding texture to the rivalry between Lolo and Kat, who are sex and body positive in very different ways. Wu gets some terrific moments as Deadeye emerges from her online coccoon. And there's a lovely late appearance from Kim.

The film is overpacked with relentlessly corny plot points, like an encounter with a quick-thinking drug dealer (Hagner) or a deeply dopey sequence in which these young women pose as K-pop stars to escape airport security. But many set-pieces are guffaw-inducingly funny, and the expected various romcom-style endings bring the likeable characters' strengths and flaws together nicely. Best of all, there's a warmly encouraging message about being comfortable with who we are and where we come from.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 17.Jul.23

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© 2023 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall