FILM REVIEW — Crazy Girl’s trips is a real “Joy Ride”

Published 12:02 am Friday, July 7, 2023

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“Joy Ride”

Lionsgate Films

Directed by Adele Lim

Starring Ashley Park, Sherry Cola, Stephanie Hsu, Sabrina Wu

Rated R

3 Stars

“Joy Ride,” the Sundance Film Festival breakout comedy arrives in local theaters this weekend, and I’m happy to report that it is even funnier than I had anticipated.

And if you need something more than just “funny,” the film also deserves points for being a comedy told through the unique viewpoint of a group of Asian American women — not something that you see in movies every day.

This is the story of Audrey (Ashley Park) and Lolo (Sherry Cola), two best friends who struck up a relationship because they were the only two Asian American girls in their elementary school. Audrey grows up to become a lawyer when the main story gets going.

She has to travel to China for work, but because she doesn’t speak Mandarin, she invites Lolo to come along as a translator. College roommate-turned actress, Kat (Stephanie Hsu) and K-Pop fanatic, Deadeye (Sabrina Wu) join in the fun.

It’s not a spoiler to say that things do not go as planned, and the four young women undergo one comic crisis after another. They bicker and bond through a series of harrowing experiences and their shared desire to let loose.

I’m tempted to say that “Joy Ride” is tonally like “Girls Trip” mixed with “Bridesmaids” and “The Hangover” but set in China. Technically, that is true, but this film feels distinct because of its unique, Asian American perspective.

We occasionally get to see films where girls go wild, but seldom where their desires to let loose are also regulated by the expectations of their cultural identity.

These four young women just want to have a good time, but the specter of cultural expectations are always lurking in the back of their minds. It’s a unique point of view that allows this lowbrow comedy to flirt with elevated drama.

Then again, “Joy Ride” is also quite funny on a base level. Produced by Seth Rogan and two writers from “The Family Guy,” there’s a lot of coarse humor here that will appeal to open-minded fans, no matter their gender or race.

The proof is in the pudding. The audience at my screening laughed louder at this film than any I’ve seen post-pandemic.

Credit Park and Cola for bringing us two very relatable characters. They give us that bond of long-time friendship that makes it easy to cheer for them, even when they are doing objectively stupid things.

Hsu is also very funny, giving us a different take after her Oscar nominated performance in “Everything Everwhere All at Once.” But for my money, Wu steals the show here, playing the sweet and shy fourth wheel who makes the quirkiest impression of the bunch.

This film is superbly directed by Adele Lim, who was previously known mostly as the screenwriter behind “Crazy Rich Asians.” She adeptly manages the mayhem, orchestrating equal measures of riotous humor and heart-warming sentiment.

It’s an impressive debut, although it’s easy to shine when you’re surrounded by such experienced writers and talented actors.

That’s both a life lesson, as well as a theme for this film.

“Joy Ride” makes the case for surrounding yourself with dear friends who know and love you—even if you might be a little bit crazy. There’s a sense of true sorority here that proves to be quite touching, quite unique, and very funny in this absolute “Joy Ride” of a movie.

Movie reviews by Sean McBride, “The Movie Guy,” are published each week by Orange Newsmedia and seen weekly on KFDM and Fox4. Sean welcomes your comments via email at