This was a title that didn't really "pop" for me until I saw some of the footage from it that actually had me laughing out loud. I figured that this was gonna end up being your fairly typical, raunchy road trip comedy, and to some degree, it definitely is. However, this brings an all-female, all-Asian group of four to the forefront as the main cast. And while the basic road trip comedy idea may not be so original, the thoughts and ideas put into this reflect the lives of four Asian women; each with their own very unique personalities.
This is a notable directorial debut from Adele Lim, who's perhaps known best for her writing behind such projects as 'Raya and the Last Dragon' and 'Crazy, Rich Asians'. Here, with the help of writers Cherry Chevapravatdumrong and Teresa Hsiao (names attached to 'Family Guy' and 'American Dad') and producers Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg (who need no introduction), Lim delivers a hilarious product that, while I'm not sure I'd call it necessarily "woke", it does open ones eyes as to just how little we've seen something like this before. The closest thing I can think to compare it to some kind of cross between 'Bridesmaids' and 'Roadtrip' with the spirit and overall wit of 'Booksmart', or maybe 'Superbad'.
The film's central focus is Audrey Sullivan (Ashley Park); an Asian adoptee with white parents, an overachiever in school, and now working as a lawyer at a reputable firm. She is one day promised a promotion to Partner if she is able to travel to China and close a deal with a businessman named Chao (Ronny Chieng). Tagging along is Audrey's childhood best friend, Lolo (Sherry Cola), who's there to be a translator, as Audrey doesn't speak fluent Chinese. She also thinks part of the venture should be to seek out Audrey's birth mother while there. They also meet Lolo's cousin, Vanessa, who goes by the nickname "Deadeye" (Sabrina Wu) and provides the overall comedy relief for the movie, but honestly, all four of these women are hilarious.
The fourth in question is Chinese celebrity, and Audrey's former college roommate, Kat (Stephanie Hsu), who Audrey was originally meant to meet as her translator for her business meeting. The whole thing does eventually become a two-sided story for Audrey, both on closing this deal to get her promotion as well as finding her birth mother, which really does end up being the main focus of things. And with that whole scenario comes a lot of the heart from this movie. I have to say that I was pretty impressed with the way the film gave us a healthy does of dramatic moments sprinkled into the comedy, and none of it feels forced or crowbarred in.
One thing I found altogether fascinating about filming the movie was learning that they filmed it primarily in North Vancouver and Maple Ridge, BC. Not that it's at all surprising that a movie was made in those parts, but the production designers do a great job of finding areas that reflect aspects of China, from both an architectural point of view as well as a natural one. Of course, I can't say I'm any sort of expert on these things, but I have to give them credit for using what they had to work with, and having it come across as potentially authentic.
All in all, it does seem like a fairly typical road trip movie, but these four actresses, who are altogether new to me (bearing in mind they may have been in things I haven't seen), really had me laughing all the way through it. I'm not gonna go so far as to say that this was a movie that broke new ground completely, but I will say that it's refreshing. We have new faces, it's a chance for Asian culture to show off how hilarious they can be, and a rather shameless show is delivered to levels that frankly surprised me - and I mean in a really good way! Nothing is held back here.
So, if you're a fan of raunchy road trip comedies, but need something new that you haven't seen before, 'Joy Ride' is actually a hell of a lot of fun. It comes with its fair share of shock value and pushes the envelope a little bit with its comedy, so be prepared for a bit of low-brow behaviour from these four. But I daresay, embrace it because these ladies do such an awesome job in this film, making me laugh more than I have with something new in a while. I may just have to call this the raunchy comedy of the summer. I loved it, and it's definitely something I'd watch again in the near future.