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‘Joy Ride’s girls' trip venture to China is a raucous journey about embracing all parts of yourself

Four Asian American women embark on a business trip to close an important deal with a lot of calamity and self-discovery.

Ed Araquel/Lionsgate

In this crazy life, we are lucky to find a kindred spirit that connects with us in a way many people cannot. Audrey (Ashley Park) and Lolo (Sherry Cola) have been best friends since they find each other as a couple of the only Asian American children in a Seattle neighborhood. Very early on in Joy Ride, there’s a rude and racist bully who comes up to taunt Audrey about her looks and customs. Lolo promptly punches him in the face and sets the tone for the film. Director Adele Lim’s film straddles the line between displaying some hilariously raunchy and over-the-top scenarios, fitting in a narrative of identity, and learning about where you came from.

There are ingredients from other films like The Hangover, Girls Trip, and Bridesmaids – but Lim and co-writers Cherry Chevapravatdumrong and Teresa Hsiao bring some poignant, comical, and insightful viewpoints of being an Asian American and what that means to exist outside of your native country. Audrey goes on to be extremely successful working at a law firm with some caveats. It’s a highly male-dominated field, and her boss Frank (Timothy Simons), can seem to help make coded comments about her race. This is coupled with the fact that Audrey was adopted by white parents and views things from a western point of view. This is why her friendship with Lolo is almost perfect – Lolo is a struggling artist with an assortment of explicit figures and paintings.

Courtesy of Lionsgate

However, she’s totally happy and secure with who she is as a person – whereas Audrey hasn’t found that as of yet. Audrey is tasked to go on a business trip to China to close out a critical deal in China to become partner and has Lolo accompany her. Firstly, Lolo speaks Mandarin, which Audrey does not, and will act as a defacto translator. They are also not necessarily alone on this trip – Lolo’s K-Pop-loving and somewhat shy cousin Deadeye (Sabrina Wu) is tagging along for the ride. The last member they plan to meet is Audrey’s former college roommate and budding Chinese actress Kat (Stephanie Hsu).

We all know from previous films of this ick that nothing goes according to plan. Everything that could go wrong will go wrong in the most unexpected ways. Joy Ride takes this premise and builds upon it with a unique cultural perspective. For example, there’s a scene where the foursome is on a train and encounters an American drug dealer. Absurdity ensues, but the premise doesn’t forget to interject the cultural aspect with a natural flow.

Things get more dire when Audrey encounters the eccentric businessman Chao (Ronny Chieng) at a wild party. As a contingent on closing this deal, Audrey has to bring her mother to a get-together. The only problem is Audrey has never met her birth mother, and despite Lolo having the number to the adoption agency, she’s hesitant to go. The engine which drives Joy Ride is in its main cast – the ensemble of Park, Hsu, Wu, and Cola are dynamic together and in little pockets. With Lolo and Kat, some tensions exist based on where Audrey’s friendship lies and their opposing views on sexuality. Lolo is free in self-expression, while Kat suppresses her past escapades because of her fiancee’s religious stoicism.

Deadeye comes out of her awkward shell in some hilarious ways to move things along. With all these ingredients, Audrey’s need to find more about her heritage and a possible split from the best friend she’s been joined at the hips with is the key. Given all the learning curves of somebody trying to discover a world they’ve never known, there is always time for some R-rated hilarity. Joy Ride gives you sexual romps with a Chinese basketball team, tattoos in precarious spots, and the women becoming a K-Pop group themselves for a particular reason.

All these jokes and gross-outs have been seen in some form, and how the main issues come together might follow past films. No matter how tense things might get, a resolution is right around the corner. That might take some of the simmer out of what Joy Ride is trying to do. Despite this, Lim crafts a tale that peers into the fallacies that masculinity partakes to the detriment of minority women and how embracing all parts of you is the key to happiness.