The Reel Review


Adopted from China by white parents, an Asian-American lawyer turns a business trip to Beijing into a raunchy getaway when three friends join her on a quest to find her birth mother. This comedy stars Ashley Park (Emily in Paris), Stephanie Hsu (Everything Everywhere All at Once) and stand-up comedians Sherry Cola (Good Trouble) and Sabrina Wu.

Stephanie Hsu, Sherry Cola, Ashley Park and Sabrina Wu in Joy Ride

Working from a sex-positive, no-holds-barred screenplay, director Adele Lim (writer of Raya and the Last Dragon and Crazy Rich Asians) clearly intended for her directorial debut to be the Asian answer to raunchy female buddy comedies as the Kristen Wiig-led Bridesmaids and 2017’s Girls Trip. While the four stars have great chemistry and some of the bawdy jokes are stupidly hilarious – particularly when they impersonate K-Pop stars calling themselves Brownie Tuesday – way too many are cheap, painfully unfunny knockoffs, making Joy Ride feel more like the joyless 2017 bomb Rough Night, which starred Scarlett Johansson and Kate McKinnon.

Stephanie Hsu, Sabrina Wu, Ashley Park and Sherry Cola in Joy Ride

The film course corrects in the final half hour, as each of the four is forced to explore individual issues surrounding self-identity. There are some really poignant moments – in particular, when Park’s Audrey finally locates her birth mother, but the lingering sour comic aftertaste makes Joy Ride more like a cheap Chinese Wish app knockoff of much funnier, better written female comedies.


Ashley Park, Taylor Loudermilk and Kate Rockwell in the Broadway production of Mean Girls

• In addition to acting, Ashley Park is also a singer and dancer, picking up a 2018 Best Actress Tony nomination for her role of Gretchen Wieners in the Broadway musical Mean Girls.

• Sherry Cola will next provide the voice of Empress Nü Kua in the animated action/adventure film The Tiger’s Apprentice.

Joy Ride is the feature film debut for Harvard graduate Sabrina Wu, who identifies as nonbinary.

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