Joy Ride

Now this is a funny raunchy comedy!

Even though some of us critics were skeptical about Jennifer Lawrence’s raunchy comedy debut of “No Hard Feelings,” it ended up being surprisingly popular with movie goers. I didn’t go for the humor or supporting character, but I did enjoy Lawrence’s performance and especially her versatility as an actress. The weekend that movie came out, my friends and I were talking about how raunchy comedies might be making a comeback. I enjoy this genre very much, but only if it isn’t too crass like “The Happytime Murders” or as wasted (literally) as “It’s a Wonderful Binge.” It has to be fearless like “There’s Something About Mary,” “Superbad,” “The Hangover,” “This is the End,” and “Booksmart.” “Joy Ride” is fearless. In fact, it’s the best comedy you’re going to see in theaters this year, so far.

The film was co-written and directed by Adele Lim, who also wrote “Crazy Rich Asians” and “Raya and the Last Dragon.” Those films have Asian characters speaking English, while honoring Asia’s values and never condescending themselves. And it was also produced by Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, and Jason Weaver. So why not combine the stupid, gross-out, and racially funny gags with some sweetness and honesty?

Audrey (Ashley Park from “Emily in Paris”) is a Chinese girl adopted by white parents (David Denman and Annie Mumolo) in America, who has survived the discrimination with her BFF Lolo (Sherry Cola), who is also Chinese. That and the fact that she has transcended into a successful lawyer, while her friend is quite the artist. Let’s just say: “Don’t be a dick to her.”

They both head over to her home country in Beijing for a business meeting, and brings Lolo along with her. It could be a girl’s trip, but she needs her friend as she’s more fluent in Chinese than she is. I really can’t blame her, living in America her whole life. They’re also accompanied by Lolo’s eccentric cousin nicknamed Deadeye (Sabrina Wu), who has to be the comic relief character in the group, and Audrey’s college friend Kat (Stephanie Hsu from “Everything Everywhere All At Once”), who is also an actress hoping to make it big in LA. So, it could he a girl’s trip in disguise.

Unfortunately, they all get thrown under the bus by an American drug dealer (Meredith Hagner), who steals their passports and money. And they also find themselves in one comical situation after another, while, simultaneously, Audrey must find out her true roots.

“Joy Ride” is a happy marriage of the genres I’ve mentioned above, because of how it will do anything to make the audience laugh, while having them hoping for the best for these women. There’s cursing without any criticisms from parents. There’s a lot of cocaine and whatever pills people are into these days. And there’s vomiting and pain in crotches. Everything one needs in an R-rated comedy.

But there’s also truth and patience in the characters and how they want to live their lives. Park, Cola, Hsu, and Wu are all perfectly cast in the ways they bring out the humor and pathos in their characters. Sometimes, it can be mismatched, other times, it can be balanced. And using the cultures is written with consistency and laughs, kudos to Kim, and her co-writers Cherry Chevapravatdumrong and Tessa Hsiao.

There’s no way people won’t recognize this movie, especially for its glowing reception from SXSW. They have to see it and really know how raunchy comedies can be hilarious and heartwarming on various terms. “Joy Ride” knows the terms quite well. And since Audrey is a lawyer, she sure can set them.

Rating: 3.5 out of 4.

Categories: comedy

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