Skip to Content

‘Joy Ride’ works too hard at trying to be the next ‘Bridesmaids’

Review by Brian Lowry, CNN

(CNN) — The “Let’s do another ‘Bridesmaids’” energy is strong in “Joy Ride,” a road-trip comedy that peaks early and feels guilty of trying too hard thereafter. Built around a predominantly Asian-American cast, it’s so determined to be crude and edgy that while its friendship dynamic lingers, its initial cleverness gets left in the rear-view mirror.

Produced by the prolific team of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, “Joy Ride” marks the directing debut of “Crazy Rich Asians” and “Raya and the Last Dragon” co-writer Adele Lim, who kicks off the story well enough when two young girls meet – one new to the neighborhood, the other adopted from China by White parents – and quickly become bosom buddies.

Flash forward a couple decades, and the latter, Audrey (Ashley Park), is a hot-shot lawyer on the partner track, while Lolo (Sherry Cola) is something of a boisterous slacker, reflecting the rift that can open when 20-somethings begin to head in opposite directions.

As luck would have it, Audrey has to travel to China to close a major deal that will secure her place in the firm (her tone-deaf boss, played by “Veep’s” Timothy Simons, says as much). She winds up taking Lolo with her, as well as Lolo’s eccentric cousin who insists on going by the name Deadeye (Sabrina Wu), connecting once they get there with Audrey’s former college friend Kat (“Everything Everywhere All at Once’s” Stephanie Hsu) – who is appearing in a Chinese soap opera while trying to convince her co-star/fiancé that she’s every bit as religious and virginal as he is.

A series of madcap, increasingly ridiculous adventures ensue, including the opportunity for Audrey to try to locate the birth mother that gave her up as a baby. Yet the somewhat poignant aspect of that subplot feels both squeezed into the story and tonally at odds with much of what transpires, which includes everything from getting wildly drunk to hooking up with a basketball team featuring, incongruously, former NBA star Baron Davis.

Lim obviously wants to play off the conventions of the raunchy female comedy (see “No Hard Feelings,” starring Jennifer Lawrence, as a recent example), testing whether there’s still any traction for such fare at the box office. At the same time, the film explores questions of identity around being Asian and the expectations and stereotypes to which these characters are subjected. Some of those themes were also addressed, in a much more understated way, in the Awkwafina vehicle “The Farewell.”

Still, the laughs in “Joy Ride” prove too sporadic, while operating from the apparent belief that if everyone’s screaming the audience will get pulled along by the sheer volume.

There’s a fitfully amusing ride in that, and a more consistent showcase for Park, whose credits include “Emily in Paris.” But there’s not enough joy in a comedy that, too often, feels as if it’s running on fumes.

“Joy Ride” premieres July 7 in US theaters. It’s rated R.

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - Entertainment

Jump to comments ↓



KIFI Local News 8 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content