Joy Ride review: The theatrical raunchy comedy is back

Stephanie Hsu in Joy Ride.
Stephanie Hsu in Joy Ride. Pic credit: Lionsgate

When reflecting on cinematic experiences, it’s a healthy admiration for diverse genre experiences. Sure, this reviewer will never forget the first time watching The Dark Knight on an immersive 70mm canvas or walking into The Matrix in 1999 unthinkingly, only to be blown away by its mind-numbing story. At the same time, there are the joyful experiences of walking in a theater and laughing with strangers until one’s sides hurt.

Experiences such as Anchorman, Bridesmaids, and even Jackass: The Movie; these movies are some of the funniest cinematic experiences ever shared with a crowd. Are these films considered high-brow entertainment? Absolutely not. But comedies have made a home on streaming as of late.

Not anymore. Joy Ride is the epic return of the theatrical raunchy comedy. Sure, Jennifer Lawrence gave it a shot with No Hard Feelings, but Joy Ride is genuinely hysterical. And the movie theater industry needed this laugh.

The film begins with two childhood friends, Audrey (Ashley Park) and Lolo (Sherry Cola), who grew up as the only Asian friends in a primarily white community. Audrey is also an adopted child who has never met her parents. She soon blossoms into an ambitious businessperson who has to stroke the egos of wealthy business partners daily. Lolo helps run a restaurant and makes sex-positive pieces of art that raise eyebrows from those around her.

To make partner, Audrey’s boss suggests she take a trip to China to close a business deal with a successful man named Chao (Ronnie Cheng). But to finish the deal, Chao wants Audrey to bring her family to a business dinner, but Audrey has never met her biological parents. However, Lola surprises her with the details that she might have found Audrey’s birth mother.

As they trek across China on a train to find her family, they meet up with two additional friends. The first is Deadeye (Sabrina Wu), a socially awkward K-Pop enthusiast who spends much time on sites like Reddit. The other is Kat (Stephanie Hsu), a sexually charged actress faking celibacy to be with her extremely ripped Christ-loving boyfriend.

Romy and Michele meets Eurotrip

As they road trip across China, Joy Ride becomes a hilarious blend of several great comedies. The two most prominent influences are Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion and Eurotrip (underrated comedy). Romy and Michele heavily influence Audrey and Lolo’s character arc, as they both grew up being extremely protective of each other and say the most hilarious off-the-wall quips ever.

Sherry Cola as Lolo arguably steals the show giving some of the best comedic dialogue punches from a character in years. Joy Ride is a star-making performance by Cola.

Still image from Joy Ride.
Still image from Joy Ride. Pic credit: Lionsgate

Joy Ride then places the four characters in a string of comedic scenarios that will make viewers laugh until it hurts. One scene, in particular, pushes the edge to such an extreme it might make moviegoers pop a stitch from the shocking hilarity of the moment.

But as always, humor is subjective, and what is funny might be interpreted differently. Joy Ride is a comedy about friendship and family and a raunchy perverted sex comedy. If a man having sex with an apple pie is something viewers find humorless, then Joy Ride is not the investment. For everyone else, this will be a 2023 highlight.

The actresses need to be recognized for their work here. Park, Hsu, Wu, and Cola are dynamic forces in this movie. Comedy demands the performer to have a surplus of bravery because it requires the individual to look silly. The comedic gambles on display in Joy Ride are high in risk and complete jackpots in reward.

And while it will make one laugh until they cry, Joy Ride has a significant emotional heart. The film takes all these shenanigans, sex quips, and raunchy tomfoolery and brings it home to a sentimental conclusion. It’s a well-balanced comedic film with a solid character-based story within the over-the-top gags.

The raunchy theatrical comedy is back

Overall, Joy Ride was an unexpected nostalgic movie experience. It’s hard to have hope some days in this volatile climate, and being able to sit with a group of diverse strangers sharing a laugh together is something we have missed for many years. Comedies are cinema, too, and deserve to be communal experiences beyond Netflix.

As for Joy Ride, it’s one of the best comedies in years. The cast is fantastic, especially Sherry Cola, who delivers a breakout comedic performance.

It felt great to laugh in a theater again with others; readers will feel the same way.

For more movie coverage, check out our reviews of the ambitious sci-fi dramedy Biosphere and our review of The Flash.

Joy Ride is now in theaters.

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