Joy Ride movie review & film summary (2023) | Roger Ebert (2024)


Joy Ride movie review & film summary (2023) | Roger Ebert (1)

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Almost as soon as they met as children, Audrey and Lolo became inseparable. They were among the few Asian Americans in a painfully hom*ogeneous white town in the Pacific Northwest. When their first playground bully hurled a racist insult at them, Lolo landed a punch right in his face as Audrey looked on in awe. Since that fateful day, the pair stuck by each other through the rest of school, the start of their careers, and the beginnings of many bad choices. Now as an ambitious associate at a law firm, Audrey (Ashley Park) has the chance for a life-changing promotion when her boss sends her to China to close a major business deal, and Lolo (Sherry Cola), Audrey’s much more chaotic counterpart, comes along on the adventure as a translator back to their homeland. With the help of two more friends, Deadeye (Sabrina Wu) and Kat (Stephanie Hsu), the group makes it an unforgettable trip that gets dirty and deep on what identity means and how to be true to oneself.


Making her feature debut, Adele Lim takes bold risks in her raunchy road trip comedy “Joy Ride.” The movie walks a fine line between exploring heartfelt questions about belonging and outrageous jokes played for shock value. It’s as if Lim and fellow co-writers Cherry Chevapravatdumrong and Teresa Hsiao saw the antics in Malcolm D. Lee’s “Girls Trip” as a challenge to top. It’s safe to say the crew in “Joy Ride” do top the outrageous factor, but whether or not it’s as effective will depend on the viewer’s stomach for bawdy humor.

Still, as uneven as the tone may wobble from Audrey’s search for her long lost mother, who gave her up for adoption, and the group hooking up with members of a traveling basketball team, there's no shortage of jokes and other comical situations to keep the awkward laughs and full-body cringes rolling along. To enhance the movie’s whirlwind melee, Paul Yee’s cinematography transports audiences from the banality of Audrey and Lolo’s hometown to the luridly colorful animated sequences of the group’s K-Pop fantasy number and the many stops along the way, from misty country roads and expansive rivers to busy cafes and dimly lit clubs. The richness of each scene steadies the sense of whiplash from the story’s breakneck pace.

Beyond crude humor, “Joy Ride” also pokes fun at Audrey’s identity crisis, using it as a springboard for pointed self-criticism and sharp cultural commentary. One of the movie’s sharpest sequences occurs when Audrey is fooled by a white American, a drug dealer desperate to hide her goods. She initially trusts her fellow American at the expense of sitting with other Chinese passengers and puts the group in an even more precarious situation because, as Lolo puts it, Audrey is prejudiced against people who look like her. There are many little introspective moments throughout the movie, like when they land at the Shanghai airport; Audrey notes what a different feeling it is for her to no longer be in the minority. There are even more observational jokes about missing out on a country’s traditional cuisine or speaking the language when you grew up outside the culture. These one-liners and observations throughout “Joy Ride” give a more nuanced sense of humor to the quips about random sex acts and ill-advised tattoos.


As with many an ensemble movie, the strength is in its cast, and “Joy Ride” is no exception. Led by the central drama between Ashley Park and Sherry Cola’s characters, their relationship shifts and evolves throughout the journey, forcing them to reckon with their moments of self-discovery. Park plays the pitch-perfect straight character, the high achiever destined for greatness—with all the flaws that can come with that personality. With a deceptively calm demeanor, Cola’s character often instigates many of the movie’s problems but not in a malicious way, almost as if eternally optimistic that she will get the results she wants. Sabrina Wu’s Deadeye and Stephanie Hsu’s Kat bring even more volatility to the mix, as Deadeye’s unpredictability and deadpan expression make it tough for others to connect with her, and Kat’s sordid past comes to haunt her more than once, even as she’s trying to change her lifestyle for a Christian fiancé.

While not everything in “Joy Ride” comes together smoothly, Lim’s movie is plenty of messy fun. It's mostlylighthearted but occasionally profound in what it says about identity and friendships. The stars of the showembrace the outrageous high jinks, enjoying the free pass to behave badly and push the envelope of raunch comedy. For all its twists and tangents, “Joy Ride” remains unapologetically true to itself and the central friendship that starts us all on our merry misadventure.

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Film Credits

Joy Ride movie review & film summary (2023) | Roger Ebert (9)

Joy Ride (2023)

Rated Rfor strong and crude sexual content, language throughout, drug content and brief graphic nudity.

95 minutes


Ashley Parkas Audrey

Sherry Colaas Lolo

Stephanie Hsuas Kat

Sabrina Wuas Deadeye

David Denmanas Joe Sullivan

Annie Mumoloas Mary Sullivan


  • Adele Lim

Writer (story by)

  • Cherry Chevapravatdumrong
  • Teresa Hsiao
  • Adele Lim


  • Cherry Chevapravatdumrong
  • Teresa Hsiao


  • Paul Yee


  • Nena Erb


  • Nathan Matthew David

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Joy Ride movie review & film summary (2023) | Roger Ebert (2024)


Joy Ride movie review & film summary (2023) | Roger Ebert? ›

It's mostly lighthearted but occasionally profound in what it says about identity and friendships. The stars of the show embrace the outrageous high jinks, enjoying the free pass to behave badly and push the envelope of raunch comedy.

What is Joy Ride about summary? ›

Is Joy Ride 2023 worth watching? ›

If you enjoy comedies with a solid storyline as well, offering more than just cheap slapstick comedy, then director Adele Lim's 2023 movie "Joy Ride" certainly is well-worth taking 95 minutes to sit down and watch. My rating of "Joy Ride" lands on a seven out of ten stars.

What's the new movie Joy Ride about? ›

When Audrey's (Ashley Park) business trip to Asia goes sideways, she enlists the aid of Lolo (Sherry Cola), her irreverent, childhood best friend who also happens to be a hot mess; Kat (Stephanie Hsu), her college friend turned Chinese soap star; and Deadeye (Sabrina Wu), Lolo's eccentric cousin.

What happened to Roger Ebert's jaw? ›

He was teased for years about his weight, but the jokes stopped abruptly when Ebert lost portions of his jaw and the ability to speak, eat and drink after cancer surgeries in 2006.

What happened in Joy Ride? ›

Audrey learns that her birth mother has died and visits her grave, but meets her birth mother's husband, Dae Han there. Dae Han shows Audrey a video recorded by her birth mother before her death and tells her that her friends had told him he might find Audrey at her birth mother's grave.

What happens at the end of Joy Ride? ›

In the first ending Lewis is able to break the board that is supporting the truck and it comes crashing down on top of Rusty Nail. In the second ending, Venna is able to get out of the chair. She shoots Rusty Nail with the shotgun as he is trying to pull Lewis under the truck.

What is the content warning of Joy Ride? ›

Parents need to know that Joy Ride is a crude, hilarious road movie with strong language, sexual humor, drinking, and drugs. It follows a group of four friends -- Audrey (Ashley Park), Lolo (Sherry Cola), Deadeye (Sabrina Wu), and Kat (Stephanie Hsu) -- as they travel across Asia in search of one of their…

Is Joy Ride 2001 worth watching? ›

For the most part, Joy Ride is an enjoyable horror/thriller. It is loaded with tension and it's easy for viewers to picture themselves in the scenario, as it's relatively realistic.

Where was Joy Ride 2023 filmed? ›

Wong says, “Making 'Joy Ride' work in Vancouver as China, Seoul and Paris was very challenging because Vancouver doesn't look like any of those places.

Is Joy Ride a true story? ›

Is the film based on a true story? Writer/director Lim tells that the story of Audrey, Lolo, Kat and Deadeye was loosely inspired by her own friends. She says all her friends did in their 20s was "hang out, go out partying and tell stories about our messy dating lives."

Who was the killer in the movie Joy Ride? ›

Rusty Nail is a main antagonist in the Joy Ride movies. He is an enigmatic, serial killing truck driver who stalks, tortures and kills his victims for those who have wronged him.

What happens to Charlotte in Joy Ride? ›

Did Rusty Nail kill Charlotte or did he let her go? He let her go. Near the end, when the police opened the door of the truck that had crashed into the house, we can see Charlotte in the back, tied up and gagged. Later we see her in the ambulance with Venna.

What were Roger Ebert's final words? ›

Sometime ago, I heard that Roger Ebert's wife, Chaz, talked about Roger's last words. He died of cancer in 2013. “Life is but a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

What was the last movie Roger Ebert watched? ›

Roger Ebert continued to review movies until the end of his life, despite the challenges of his cancer, which inspired others facing the same disease. Terrence Malick's To the Wonder was Ebert's last review and showcased the director's iconic style and departure from his previous period pieces.

Why is Roger Ebert so famous? ›

Roger Ebert (born June 18, 1942, Urbana, Illinois, U.S.—died April 4, 2013, Chicago, Illinois) was an American film critic, perhaps the best known of his profession, who became the first person to receive a Pulitzer Prize for film criticism (1975). Born: June 18, 1942, Urbana, Illinois, U.S.

What is the plot of Joy Ride 2001? ›

What is the story behind the ride? ›

The Ride recounts the life of Glaswegian pro BMX rider and author John Buultjens, who grew up with an abusive father and wanted to ride ever since he watched E.T.

Is Joy Ride 2001 based on a true story? ›

FILM, Fiction, 90 min. For Sandra, a woman in her late teens, life is wonderful.


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