It only makes sense that the opening scene of the new comedy film Joy Ride is an extended version of its trailer's first scene. As a young Audrey (Lennon Yee) goes to play on the playground with a young Lolo (Belle Zhang) they are met by another young child hurling racist remarks. Lolo, taking matters into her tiny, yet rock-solid, hands quickly punches the shit out of this kid. He then proceeds to run into the direct path of a swinging child, getting launched into the atmosphere with the exit velocity of a home run derby baseball.
All of this is to say, this opening sequence, and the subsequent montage establish two things immediately. Audrey and Lolo are incredibly supportive friends, and this is gonna be a funny movie.
Joy Ride is the directorial debut of Adele Lim who has been behind some excellent projects. As a writer she's written a plethora of episodes for a variety of TV shows, and in terms of feature films her resume is exquisite. Most recently Lim was a writer for two films I love, Raya and the Last Dragon and Crazy Rich Asians. Alongside Lim in the writing room for Joy Ride is the long-time Family Guy Producer/Writer Cherry Chevapravatdumrong and Teresa Hsiao, who has also written a number of episodes for Family Guy and co-created the show Awkwafina is Nora From Queens. Thus you can put the pieces together that, yes, this movie will contain cramp-inducing levels of comedy.
The plot of Joy Ride follows Audrey (Ashley Park) and Lolo (Sherry Cola) as they embark on a trip to China where Audrey must close a business deal in the hopes of making partner at her firm. Joining our two best friends on this extremely professional journey is Lolo's cousin Deadeye (Sabrina Wu), much to the chagrin of Audrey. While in China the trio rendezvous with Audrey's old college roommate, now a famous Chinese actress, Kat (Stephanie Hsu), much to the chagrin of Lolo.
Not only are all four of these characters undeniably charismatic, but the actresses' chemistry is palpable. Writing, character development, and the acting all join together in perfect harmony to create one of the most magnetic groups one could ever want. But the real emotional breadwinner for the group, in my mind, is Deadeye. Wu's portrayal of an offbeat lonely human yearning for platonic connection is as endearing as it is heartbreaking at points throughout the film. Our initial meeting of Deadeye brings up an oft mentioned event in the age of the internet, all of her friends are online profiles of people she's never met before. Sure they've shared conversations, but the dream of having real physical friends drives Deadeye straight into the hearts of viewers, along with Wu's outrageously wonderful performance.
While Audrey is struggling to close her business deal with Chao (Ronny Chieng), he takes a moment to question her entire being. As an adopted Chinese-American, Audrey, has no actual connection with her birth mother, which raises questions for Chao in how they could possibly do business together. In a moment akin to being on the playground early in their lives Lolo comes to Audrey's defense and claims that she does in fact have a loving relationship with her mother. After Chao then invites them to bring Audrey's birth mom to an event later in the week to seal the deal, our quirky quartet is thrust into the centerpiece adventure within the film.
Searching for Audrey's birth mother not only brings up many hilarious moments, often quite raunchy, but it also illuminates so many gorgeous details about our characters. Throughout the film Audrey is grappling with who she really is. As a Chinese-American in not only a predominantly white town but also a white dominated industry, she deals with masking her cultural identity for her professional identity. Pushing aside her background and heritage she never got the chance to identify with, results in some profoundly beautiful moments of self discovery.
Outside of Audrey's emotional journey there's also evolutions for Lolo, Kat and Deadeye in the forms of sexual expression, sexual freedom, and finding your people. While on their expedition one thing leads to another (no spoilers here people) and the group ends up in a hotel with a Chinese basketball team. There Audrey has a conversation with a player named Kenny (Chris Pang) who has a great line explaining how instead of the singular, Chinese culture is about the collective. How can we all live together and be together. In the context of Audrey and co's journeys it is a quick heartwarming line that really amplifies their journey in finding eachother (and themselves). Even though they're looking for Audrey's birth mother, it exemplifies the greater struggle Audrey has in her cultural identification along with who she really wants to be and where she feels she belongs.
When it's all said and done, I really really can't believe how beautiful the overall message of Joy Ride was. It affected me in a heartwarming way, after of course some twists and turns shattered my heart a few times. This is all just a complicated way of saying Chevapravatdumrong, Hsiao, and Lim wrote one hell of a movie. The dialogue is full of tender moments, driving character development, and jokes that had me shooting popcorn kernels from my nose.
Seriously, I know I just talked about how gorgeous, and heartwarming this movie is and what not. But this movie killed me. My face hurt from laughing so hard in the theater. Comedic timing, pacing, delivery, all of the humor written landed so hard for me that I can't wait to see this movie again for the comedic side alone. Hsu is a bonafide superstar who after her Oscar nomination for Everything Everywhere All at Once comes in swinging for the fences with this film!? Put her in everything, give her all the roles, she absolutely crushed it. Cola and Wu were also on-fire for the whole film with Cola having some outrageous lines elevated by her delivery. I would certainly not be mad if this film sparked some sort of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost string of movies starring all four of Park, Hsu, Cola and Wu because they are electric together.
A movie with such enjoyable stars combined with a great script makes for an easily consumable experience. Nothing is better than being able to sit back, relax, and simply absorb what's in front of you. On an emotional level and on a laugh-my-ass-off level. Alongside such an easy time for myself was the Skagit Pilsner from Farmstrong Brewing. This low ABV pilsner is as smooth and enjoyable as Joy Ride. Full of sweet malty tones complementing the light body with a creamy drinkability. The Skagit Pilsner is simply an enjoyable beer. Nothing more, nothing less. But that's what makes it perfect for a great comedy movie like this! A no frills, kick back and relax type of beer while you watch four friends complete a self-actualization metamorphosis.
Oh and again, I can't stress this enough, you laugh your ass off.