Arriving with festival buzz thanks to premiering at SXSW, Joy Ride takes a familiar story and gives it a modern treatment. The closest comparison is to something like Booksmart, which felt like a smart, progressive take on Superbad. Joy Ride bears similarities to something like The Hangover, with a group of four strange bedfellows, thrown together on a business-trip-gone-wrong in
Joy Ride really doesn’t have any right to be as good as it is. The plot is drenched in cliché, with each character playing types we’ve seen in comedies before. The quartet’s individual arcs are expected; there really are no surprises here. And yet, the end film is a wonderful combination of sweetly sentimental and deliciously vulgar, a proper comedic coup.
A stellar quartet can be found in the film’s core, lighting the film up from scene to scene. Ashley Park, Sherry Cola, Stephanie Hsu (of Everything Everywhere All At Once fame) and Sabrina Wu each give beautifully tailored turns, handling the comedy and drama with assured confidence. They thread the delicate balance between lovable and crude that makes this film work so well. A particular stand out sequence is when the foursome spend the night with a professional basketball team, a wonderful release of tension for all involved. It’s a laugh-out-loud, liberating scene.
And this is the trick of Cherry Chevapravatdumrong and Teresa Hsiao’s script, as well as Adele Lim’s assured direction (and this is a very good debut from Lim). Just when it feels like the comedy is pushing things too far, losing focus on the narrative, there will be a development that draws us back to an engaging narrative that has much to say on identity. Joy Ride trades on equals parts hearty belly-laughs and heartwarming developments.
This is truly a must see film, guaranteed to give audiences a great time.