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'Joy Ride' review: Raunchy friend comedy has instant classic potential

Formulaic in structure but uproariously clever and hilarious in execution, "Joy Ride" is easily the funniest movie of the year so far.
'Joy Ride' review: Raunchy friend comedy has instant classic potential
Posted at 1:32 PM, Jul 06, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-06 13:32:58-04

"Get in, loser, we're going to the movies," is what I recommend telling your best friend this weekend. 

"Joy Ride" will take you on its own hilarious spin of the raunchy buddy comedy sub-genre like "Superbad," "Bridesmaids," "Girls Trip" and "The Hangover." I mention these other movies not to suggest "Joy Ride" will remind you of something else it's drawing from, but to say I'm confident it will carve out its own place among fondly remembered 21st-century comedies.

Directed by Adele Lim, from a top-notch screenplay by Cherry Chevapravatdumrong and Teresa Hsiao (all with stellar comedic backgrounds in Hollywood), "Joy Ride" begins with a playground flashback of young Audrey and Lolo meeting each other for the first time. A mean little boy bullies them for being Asian American, so Lolo punches him square in the face. And so begins a beautiful, unconditional lifelong friendship between Audrey and Lolo.

In the present, adult Audrey (Ashley Park) is a straight-laced lawyer and Lolo (Sherry Cola) is a quirky artist who lives in Audrey's detached garage. They're still inseparable. 

So that means when Audrey goes to China for an important work trip — her first time there since she was adopted as a baby by American parents — Lolo is of course coming along for support. Joining them is Lolo's cousin Deadeye (Sabrina Wu) and Aubrey's former college roommate Kat (Stephanie Hsu), who now lives in China as a successful actress.

What follows is highly comical R-rated debauchery: sex, drugs and K-pop in place of rock and roll. This is the kind of hysterical moviegoing experience that literalizes "LOL" and "ROFL"; "knee-slapper" would also work.

To put it another way, "Joy Ride" is the level of raunchy, broad comedy the recent "No Hard Feelings" was going for, executed to perfection.

SEE MORE: 'No Hard Feelings' review: No strong opinions

The comedic timing here is some of the best I've seen in recent memory; Lim never lets a scene linger too long, or a gag overstay its welcome, like an "SNL" sketch that's funny until it's not anymore. The editing is so snappy and refreshingly fast-paced that it's easy to miss a line of dialogue in the following scene because you're still laughing from what you just saw. For that alone I feel like it's worth a second watch.

Among the four main stars, everyone has an opportunity to shine — and makes the absolute most of it. Park, as Audrey, is on paper playing the straight man but in practice has just as much fun as everyone else. 

Cola is the strong comedic core of the movie, while Wu and Hsu do some incredible scene-stealing. Hsu was nominated for an Oscar just this year for another memorable, attention-commanding performance in "Everything Everywhere All at Once," but I think her stock will only continue to skyrocket.

SEE MORE: 'Everything Everywhere' Oscars win opens new doors for Asian actors

"Joy Ride" has all the familiar trappings of a buddy comedy. It's never in doubt that these four very different personalities will eventually butt heads, say some mean things they'll later regret, sit with their feelings, grow from the experience, then ultimately make up. 

Nothing about that is a spoiler, it's just true to life. And formulaic can be good — or in the case of "Joy Ride," exceptional. Sometimes it's truly not about the destination, but the crude fun we have along the way.

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