“Joy Ride” review: A wild road movie filled with sex, drugs, and plenty of raunchy antics.

Ashley Park, Sherry Cola, Stephanie Hsu, and Sabrina Wu headline this predictable yet charming comedy, which follows a group of friends embarking on a bawdy adventure through China.

Five years ago, Adele Lim co-wrote “Crazy Rich Asians,” a romantic comedy sensation that shattered misconceptions about Asian-led films in Hollywood, grossing over $238 million worldwide. Despite the success and the swift greenlighting of a sequel, Lim left the project after reportedly being offered significantly less pay than her white male co-writer. Instead, she embarked on a new venture: a raunchy road comedy set in China, co-developed with friends Cherry Chevapravatdumrong and Teresa Hsiao. Now, Lim makes her feature directorial debut with “Joy Ride,” a riotous film that embraces its hard-R rating without holding back.

“Joy Ride” revolves around the journey of four best friends traveling through China, celebrating the messy and enduring bonds of friendship. Broadway alum Ashley Park leads the cast as Audrey, a high-achieving individual adopted from China by white American parents. Throughout her childhood, Audrey forms a close bond with Lolo (Sherry Cola), the only other Asian girl in their predominantly white neighborhood. Their friendship endures into adulthood, with Audrey pursuing a career as a lawyer while Lolo embraces a carefree lifestyle as a sex-positive artist. Their dynamic sets the stage for the wild adventures that ensue, with Audrey’s structured life contrasting sharply with Lolo’s free-spirited approach.

As Audrey embarks on an international business trip to China, Lolo eagerly volunteers to accompany her as her interpreter, bringing along her awkward, K-pop-obsessed cousin Deadeye, portrayed by nonbinary actor Sabrina Wu. Soon after, Audrey’s college roommate Kat, played by Stephanie Hsu (known for “Everything Everywhere All at Once”), joins the group. Kat has achieved celebrity status as a soap opera star in China. What begins as a joyous vacation quickly spirals out of control when Ashley finds herself grappling with closing a deal with a formidable business contact, portrayed by Ronny Chieng. In a bid to prove her dedication to her family, Audrey reluctantly decides to search for her birth mother in China, setting off a chain of events that leads to even more chaos.

Joy Ride

“Joy Ride” joins the ranks of bawdy, R-rated comedies hitting theaters this summer, following in the footsteps of “No Hard Feelings,” which premiered in June and starred Jennifer Lawrence as a 30-something woman hired to flirt with a recent high school graduate. However, while “No Hard Feelings” merely dipped its toe into raunchy territory, “Joy Ride” dives headfirst into the deep end. The film features scenes of vomit, drugs being inserted into bodily orifices, and threesomes with professional basketball players (including Baron Davis in a role as himself). In one memorable scene, the four friends, having lost their passports, pose as a fake K-pop group, delivering a hilariously absurd performance of Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP,” culminating in a jaw-droppingly filthy finale.

The chemistry among the four leads is palpable. Stephanie Hsu, recent Oscar nominee for “Everything Everywhere,” showcases her comedic talents as the reluctantly celibate Kat, while Sabrina Wu’s portrayal of Deadeye lives up to their name, delivering emotionless yet deeply hilarious reaction shots. Sherry Cola exudes charm as a chaotic force of nature, providing a lascivious counterpart to Ashley Park’s strait-laced Audrey.

While “Joy Ride” offers its fair share of gross gags and chaotic debauchery, it treads familiar ground, sharing similarities with other female-led comedies like “Bridesmaids” (2011) and “Girls Trip” (2017). Despite its lack of subversion, the film is a welcome addition to the genre. Adele Lim introduces some thoughtful questions about Asian-American identity and the struggle to find belonging, though these themes often take a backseat to nudity and absurdist humor. Additionally, not every gag lands successfully (a plea for a moratorium on scenes involving accidental cocaine consumption wouldn’t go amiss).

In the emotional third act, “Joy Ride” follows a predictable trajectory, transitioning from slapstick humor to sentimentality and relying heavily on clichés about the power of friendship. Despite this, amidst the plethora of sex jokes and vulgar one-liners, the film retains a genuine emotional core. While the ride may be raunchy and occasionally familiar, it ultimately proves to be a journey well worth taking.

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