Review: ‘Joy Ride’

Adele Lim's Raunchy, Risque Road Comedy Is A Fresh Spin On A Well-Worn Genre

The raunchy road trip comedy gets turned on its head with Adele Lim’s hilarious and heartfelt, Joy Ride. The rare comedy of this type to feature a cast led by Asian-American females and one non-binary, it has the potential to open doors similar to what Girls Trip did for comedies led by African-American women.

Beginning in 1993, Joy Ride centers on best friends Audrey, played by Ashley Park, and Lolo, played by Sherry Cola. Growing up as the only two Asian kids in an all-white neighborhood in Washington State, they leaned on one another to get by, literally punching out those who dared to be even a little bit racist. Although joined at the hip, the two couldn’t be more different. Audrey, who was adopted by white parents, grows up to be a successful attorney, while Lolo is a sex-positive artist unafraid to push boundaries.
The hijinx begins when Audrey is tasked with flying to Beijing to complete a business deal. Lolo tags along as a translator, while Audrey’s college pal Kat, played by Everything Everywhere’s Stephanie Hsu, and Lolo’s K-Pop fanatic cousin Deadeye, played by nonbinary actor Sabrina Wu, join them.

Of course, the trip goes haywire in a funny but potentially dangerous cultural misfire, leaving them stuck in China with no way home. This proves to be quite a challenge for Audrey who struggles with her identity, having no connection to China whatsoever. The humor is unquestionably risque but never sinks to the level of lowbrow. Instead, Joy Ride makes keen social observations about the everyday prejudices they face as Asian-Americans and as women. Even when things take a hilarious cocaine-fueled turn for the worse, Joy Ride never spins out of control.

The screenplay goes to great lengths to make sure every character has something to say and a unique perspective. And while it does press on the messaging a bit earnestly, it’s easy to understand why. Movies like Joy Ride don’t get a major studio platform very often, so take advantage! Asian women have so often been depicted as docile, exotic curiosities for straight white men, it’s good to see a movie that portrays them as real women with desires and passions just like everyone else. If it offends you to see Asian women talking frankly about sex, then you probably need to grow up.

Most notably, Joy Ride depicts the bond between four very-different Asian-American women who have tackled life in their own way. Lim, who co-wrote the script and made her directorial debut, brings energy and freshness to a well-worn genre. Joy Ride isn’t like your typical movie of this formula, and with more diverse stories being told, we can all be grateful for that.

Joy Ride opens in theaters on July 7th!

Joy Ride
Travis Hopson has been reviewing movies before he even knew there was such a thing. Having grown up on a combination of bad '80s movies, pro wrestling, comic books, and hip-hop, Travis is uniquely positioned to geek out on just about everything under the sun. A vampire who walks during the day and refuses to sleep, Travis is the co-creator and lead writer for Punch Drunk Critics. He is also a contributor to Good Morning Washington, WBAL Morning News, and WETA Around Town. In the five minutes a day he's not working, Travis is also a voice actor, podcaster, and Twitch gamer. Travis is a voting member of the Critics Choice Association (CCA), Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), and Late Night programmer for the Lakefront Film Festival.