Review by Sean Boelman
Adele Lim gained recognition in Hollywood for being one of the screenwriters behind the smash hit Asian-led rom-com Crazy Rich Asians. Now she brings her talents to the raunchy comedy genre with Joy Ride, and while it’s unlikely to have as much of a mainstream appeal as the aforementioned film, audiences will still have a blast with it.
The movie follows a group who goes to China accompanying their friend on a business trip, only for things to get wild and unruly when they set out on a journey to reunite her with her long-lost birth mother. There have been plenty of raunchy road trip comedies like this, but Joy Ride’s unique representation makes it noteworthy.
As is the case with many raunchy comedies, this film is an example of a comedy whose humor sometimes falls flat, but is *really* funny when it hits. There are some stretches of four to five minutes where there aren’t many laughs, but others where they’re popping off so quickly you won’t be able to catch your breath. Ultimately, the good parts far outweigh the bad.
The area in which the movie does come up a bit short is its emotional through-line. The motivation for these characters to go on this raunchy adventure is somewhat conventional, and while that’s not necessarily damning in and of itself, the film unfortunately gets weighed down by its sentimentality. It often feels sappy and forced — particularly when it comes to a third act that is telegraphed from the beginning.
Instead, the movie should have invested more time in the bond between this group of four unlikely friends, because this aspect of the film feels much more authentic and compelling. Many buddy comedies struggle to do what this movie does so naturally, and that is proving to the audience that this group of people would be together despite their bickering. Every qualm they have with one another feels completely rooted in truth and love.
In the film, all eyes are likely to be on Everything Everywhere All at Once breakout Stephanie Hsu, and she’s certainly hilarious in Joy Ride. However, some may be surprised to find that she isn’t the funniest performer in the cast. That goes to Sherry Cola (who was also a standout in Randall Park’s Sundance directorial debut Shortcomings), who gets the most consistent laughs. Newcomer Sabrina Wu also gets their share of hilarious moments.
For this to be Lim’s directorial debut, she is shockingly competent in visual gags. There is one sequence that has about three expertly-executed gags — and one that’s still solid, if inferior to the other three — that will have audiences laughing. Another scene contains what is one of the funniest visuals you can see in a raunchy comedy this year.
Joy Ride is a very funny movie, and while it’s a bit sappy and some of its jokes don’t land as well as they could, it’s more than entertaining enough to be worth a watch. Speaking for myself, I’d rather see a dozen more pretty solid theatrical studio comedies like this than another mediocre algorithm-dictated streaming comedy.
Joy Ride hits theaters on July 7.