Joy Ride15¦ Blu-ray, DVD
American audiences have a fairly myopic attitude when it comes to their films, supporting predominately white male casts, produced by white male men. And to be fair, it’s not just American audiences, as these films are successful all around the world.
But once in a while, one slips through the net, as did Crazy Rich Asians in 2018. With a budget of only $30 million, it went on to achieve a global box office success of over £235 million. It was a film with a predominantly Asian cast, with an Asian director, that managed the seemingly impossible, and engage with a white audience.
One of the writers of that film, Adele Sim, is attempting to see if lightening can strike twice, with her own, very different take on an US Asian feature.
Living in White Hills, Seattle, are best friends Audrey (Ashley Park) and Lolo (Sherry Cola). They were thrust together by their respective parents when they were children, mostly on the basis for being the only Asian children around.
Now all grown up, Audrey is a lawyer, and is about to close the biggest deal of her life. The thing is, she has to do so in Beijing, and despite being of Asian descent, doesn’t speak Chinese. Luckily for her, Lolo does, so she wrangles her into coming with as her translator.
It won’t be just the two of them however, as Audrey initially thought, as Lolo informs her at the airport that her cousin Deadeye (Sabrina Woo) is also going with them. And when they land in China, they go visit Audrey’s other friend Kat (Stephanie Hsu), who just so happens to be an actress in a big TV show.
With the four of them hanging out, they soon find themselves thrown together on a road trip, the likes of which none of them will ever forget.
It’s kind of ironic that despite the phenomenal success of Crazy Rich Asians, it really wasn’t very good, lacking any sense of originality, other than an Asian cast. And certainly Lim’s film goes in a completely different direction, thankfully, making for a more entertaining experience.
But that’s not to say it isn’t formulaic, just as Crazy Rich Asians was being a rom-com, this one follows in the tire tracks of a zany road trip. A fair comparison would be The Hangover franchise; a group of very different characters- being Asian women here – thrown together on a wacky adventure together.
It’s a film that gives the sense that at the heart of it all it’s about cultural identity and discovering where you are from. Which it is, but wrapped up in a whole lot of dick and vagina jokes.
And just as you would expect with this type of film, the gags are very hit and miss, but it nails enough of them to make it fun in places.
The performances are great too, with each character just being different enough, so that they complement one another when they are together.
There is a subplot regarding one of the characters finding her birth mother, which although is there to deepen the family roots angle, is poorly crowbarred in and is completely superfluous to the rest of the plot.
Will it do as big as business as Crazy Rich Asians ? Unlikely, despite being a far more enjoyable affair. The fact that it was made at all is impressive enough, because let’s face it, it’s not audiences that dictate whether they want to see Asians in films – or any other race for that matter – but Hollywood, and all the white, middle-aged white execs that predominately run it.
Joy Ride may not be the best ever zany road trip flick ever made, but then so very few are, even with their mostly male white cast. The fact that it’s an all Asian female-led film does give it an edge however, because although it’s structured like any other zany road trip flick, the Asian flavour it brings gives it some refreshing originality.
And let’s face it, it doesn’t really matter what continent of the world is featured, dick and vag jokes are pretty universal.
With enjoyable characters and sharp and sassy adult humour thrown into the mix, Joy Ride doesn’t re-invent the road trip wheel, but the direction it does take makes it worth tagging along with.