Joy Ride

Posted on July 6, 2023 at 5:46 pm

Lowest Recommended Age: Adult
Profanity: Extremely strong and crude language
Violence/ Scariness: Comic peril and violence
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Copyright 2023 Lionsgate

It’s not unusual to see a “Oh, no, they didn’t” cheerfully raunchy comedies like the “Harold and Kumar” films, and Seth Rogen’s “Superbad,” “Neighbors,” and “Pineapple Express,” but it is almost unheard of to see one with women as the lead characters (though I don’t think “The Sweetest Thing” is as bad as its reputation). It’s also almost unheard of to see a wild American comedy with all Asian characters. “Joy Ride,” with Rogen as one of the producers, is directed by Adele Lim, one of the screenwriters of “Crazy Rich Asians,” who also gets co-story by credit. That helps to make “Joy Ride” a welcome addition to the genre.

This is not about witty repartee or storyline. A lot of the comedy is just the shock value of seeing these actresses in such outrageous situations, especially seeing women who are very sex-positive, frank about their desires and their actions. But the most successful of this genre work because of the relationships at the heart — in every way — of the story, and the strength of this movie is not the raunch but the friendships.

The only Asian children in a suburban Oregon community are Audrey, a girl adopted from China by white parents, and Lolo, the daughter of a Chinese family. They become instant best friends at age six when Lolo punches a bully who calls them a racist name, and then we get a quick montage, watching them grow up, Audrey (now played by Ashley Park) always at the head of the class and then an ambitious young lawyer, Lolo (Sherry Cola) an artist specializing in extremely explicit sexual imagery. There are a lot of “extremelys” in this movie.

Audrey gets a chance to impress her boss. There’s an opportunity in China. All she has to do is close the deal. And if she allowed her partners to believe that her command of Chinese is more than the two days she’s spent on DuoLingo, that is fine with her. She’s got the language on lockdown because her college roommate, Kat (“Everything Everywhere’s” Stephanie Hsu), now a popular actress in China, has agreed to act as translator. Lola, who speaks Chinese, comes along as a back-up, and her cousin Deadeye (Sabrina Wu), a nerdy K-Pop fan, tags along, too.

Audrey has never been interested in tracking down her birth mother. But the potential client says she should bring her mother to a gathering, and, after things go disastrously on their first meeting, she is desperate. The four women go off on a wild adventure that includes getting caught up with an American drug dealer, having their bags and passports stolen, some very intense sexual encounters (lucky thing that busload of handsome athletes came by!), and some big surprises about Audrey’s bio-family.

All four actresses are clearly having a blast, relishing the opportunity to get down and dirty. There is just enough specificity about their experiences to add interest without distracting us from the next wacky adventure. And the cast and the characters they play are so varied there is never a risk of caricature. The movie is having fun with them, not making fun of them. Even within the ultra-silliness of the storylines, most of which are weak but no one is there for the plot, each character has her own lesson to learn and bonds of friendship to strengthen. And drugs to hide and men to…well, you get the idea.

Parents should know that this movie is so filthy I could not even include the green band (supposed to be suitable for all audiences) trailer on this site. Character use very strong language, there are many explicit sexual situations, character drink, get drunk, and use drugs.

Family discussion: Why were Lola and Audrey friends? How did Audrey’s discovery change her idea about herself?

If you like this, try: “Superbad” and “Pineapple Express”

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