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Film Review: Joy Ride (2023)

Joy Ride is a lot of things: a bawdy comedy, a fun road trip movie, a daughter's quest, a hero(ine)'s journey, and a not-so-deep exploration of gender norms and stereotypes. While the laughs are plenty and the cast is charming, the film tries to figure out what it is and the result is a bit muddled. 

Director Adele Lim (in her directing debut) knows how to tell a good story. Her pacing of the movie is what keeps this comedy going. Little room is left to catch your breath before you've been moved on to the next outrageous situation, seemingly set up to allow the cast of comedians to shine. And they do, in part to Lim's directing, but also because all four actors are so damn entertaining: Ashley Park. Sherry Cola, Stephanie Hsu, and Sabrina Wu. Any of them could easily carry a film on their own. Here, they each have some terrific moments, but are ultimately diminished by a film that's too full. 

Structurally, the film's first two acts work really well. After a quick set up in Seattle, we're off to the other side of the world (in this case, China) where the adventures begin. And wild adventures they are. Yet, it's in the third act where the film becomes a sentimental mixture of all too familiar tropes and, as a result, suddenly loses all of it's brilliant originality it's just built. Gone is the frenetic energy, the hilarious and masterful physical comedy, and instead we sit through twenty minutes of implausibility and a sappy ending that undermines this otherwise wicked romp and doesn't give the audience - or it's great actors - the badass send off we thought we were getting. 

David-Matthew Barnes

⭐⭐⭐­čŹ┐­čŹ┐­čŹ┐


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