Pin It

The Joy of the Ride 

Joy Ride, The Out-Laws deliver the laughs

click to enlarge Watching Guy Fieri's handshake.

Joy Ride

Watching Guy Fieri's handshake.

JOY RIDE. It has been rather widely reported — but may still be apocryphal — that at some point during the development of this screenplay, the writers (Cherry Chevapravatdumrong and Teresa Hsiao) thought to call it The Joy Fuck Club. Clearly, that title is a bit too outré for our provincial American sensibilities, but I like that it exists, even just in the ether. Joy Ride, as it is somewhat more timidly now known, does harken back a bit to the notions of intercontinental identity and family building explored in Amy Tan's work, but it refracts them through the cracked lens of two longtime Family Guy writers liberated by an R-rating to salt the sentimentality with big, broad jokes about sex and drugs. 

In 1998, in the aptly named but perhaps underused Seattle suburb of White Hills, the Sullivans (Annie Mumolo and David Denman) trepidatiously approach the recently relocated Chens (Debbie Fan and Kenneth Liu) at a playground. Having been the only couple in White Hills with a Chinese child, they're almost too eager for their daughter Audrey (played in childhood and adolescence by Lennon Yee and Isla Rose Hall) to meet Lolo Chen, who is just the same age. Everyone is receptive, though, and the two girls begin a lifelong friendship of opposites. 

Twenty-five years later, Audrey (Ashley Park) is a successful attorney and Lolo (Sherry Cola) makes highly sexualized art and lives rent-free in Audrey's detached garage. When the final negotiations with a powerful client require a trip to China, Audrey's buffoonish "ally" boss Frank (the great Timothy Simons) immediately suggests she go. She conscripts Lolo as translator, who in turn proffers an invitation to her cousin Deadeye (Sabrina Wu). After they've arrived in Beijing, the threesome connects with Audrey's college best friend Kat (Stephanie Hsu), now a major television star engaged to a kindly Christian from whom she has withheld the details of her sexual history (this becomes germane soon enough). 

Audrey tries to muscle her way through a boozy meeting with her potential client, with Lolo and Kat constantly baiting one another about who's the better native speaker and bigger libertine, and Deadeye generally playing the lovable weirdo. Things get squirrely out of the gate, a drug dealer (Meredith Hagner) absconds with everybody's passports and tensions within the group mount proportionally to the craziness they get up to. Before long, Lolo's reminding convinces Audrey to attempt to locate her birth mother and the four friends drift, maybe irreparably, apart. 

The directorial debut of Adele Lim (formerly a producer and writer best known for the screenplays for Crazy Rich Asians and Raya and the Last Dragon), represents a tentatively heartening example of pretty major studio money and access granted to a raunchy, heartfelt, gleefully half-dumb but ultimately well-crafted comedy by and about Asian American women. Crude as it is frequently sincere, Joy Ride can occasionally feel a little tonally uneven, but the relationships at the heart of the story, the questions of identity and belonging it explores are strong and, in their specificity, nearly universal. It's also a rambling, sex-positive sex comedy with less cynicism than most, and at least a couple of the big jokes are genuinely surprising. R. 92M. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.

THE OUT-LAWS. About as highbrow as I'll get in discussing this particular comedy is to note the title references the magnificently goofy The In-Laws (1979), written by Andrew Bergman, directed by Arthur Hiller and starring Peter Falk and Alan Arkin in one of the all-time team ups. 

The In-Laws, this ain't.

But I'm about as basic as they come, so even without the nod to a classic, I would still enjoy and endorse this latest Adam Devine vehicle, with a few caveats. Mainly: If one is not brought to tears by body-slams and testicle jokes, perhaps one should scroll on. 

On the eve of their wedding, nebbishy but sweet bank manager Owen (Devine) and his yoga-instructor fiancée Parker (Nina Dobrev) learn that her parents, whom Owen has never met, intend to attend the nuptials. The parents in question turn out to be Billy and Lilly McDermott (Pierce Brosnan and Ellen Barkin), tough-talking, tougher drinking, leather-clad citizens of the world who are immediately terrifying and fascinating to Owen's polar opposite parents, played by Richard Kind and Julie Hagerty. 

Shortly enough, Owen's bank is robbed, a federal agent of questionable acumen (Michael Rooker) arrives to investigate, and suspicions abound. This all builds to a series of delightfully stupid madcap capers gone wrong and then right (including a breathlessly hilarious depiction of self-induced agony from Dean Norris), all resolving into a too tidy but satisfying conclusion. 

High art, hardly, but hilarious indeed, and perhaps most joyful for the dueling partnerships of Brosnan/Barkin and Kind/Hagerty, all of whom get the opportunity to make big, note-perfect swings at jokes and subtly lampoon their own on-screen personae. R. 95M. NETFLIX.

John J. Bennett (he/him) is a movie nerd who loves a good car chase.


ASTEROID CITY. PG13. 105M. Wes Anderson's star-studded, hyper stylistic Sci-Fi rom-com takes us to a 1950s desert town on lockdown. With aliens. BROADWAY, MINOR.

ELEMENTAL. Animated adventure about a city of fire, water, earth and air elements. Voiced by Leah Lewis, Mamoudou Athie and Catherine O'Hara. PG. 93M. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.

INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY. PG13. 142M. In 'Art Imitating Life' news, Nazis are back. But so's our favorite Nazi puncher. An aging Indy comes to the rescue in 1969 as the Nazis try to rise again – proving they'll never hold a torch to him. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK, MINOR.

INSIDIOUS 3. In this prequel to the Insidious movies, we see how medium Elise develops her demon-fighting chops. While more emotionally complex than Insidious 1 and 2, it still packs plenty of jumps. Hold onto your popcorn. PG13. 97M. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.

MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: DEAD RECKONING PART 1. Tom Cruise is back in his lifts and cables for more spy adventure with Rebecca Ferguson, Simon Pegg and Vanessa Kirby. PG13. 163M. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK, MINOR.

SOUND OF FREEDOM. Anti-child trafficking, thinly veiled Q-Anon propaganda film. Starring Jim Caviezel. PG13. 135M BROADWAY.

SPIDER-MAN: ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE. Animated sequel to the Miles Morales adventure. PG. 140M. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.

TRANSFORMERS: RISE OF THE BEASTS. The robot cars team up with robot animals. Starring Michelle Yeoh, Pete Davidson and, hell, everybody, I guess. PG13. 127M BROADWAY.

Updated Broadway and Mill Creek listings were not available at press time due to the holiday. Fortuna Theatre is temporarily closed due to earthquake damage. For showtimes call: Broadway Cinema (707) 443-3456; Mill Creek Cinema 839-3456; Minor Theatre (707) 822-3456.

Pin It

Related Locations

Speaking of...


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

About The Author

John J. Bennett

more from the author

Latest in Screens


Facebook | Twitter

© 2023 North Coast Journal

Website powered by Foundation