With the arrival of Joy Ride in cinemas we may have just seen the start of a very special film journey for a lot of audience members. See this is one of those films where the trailer just doesn’t do the film justice. Many will be turned off by the fact that this seems to be a outrageous comedy targeted at teenagers… when in reality the debut feature film from Adele Lim is so much more.

Yes, Joy Ride is a comedy in the vein of classic comedies like American Pie and Road Trip but there is also a more serious side to the film as it centres around deep and important topics such as learning about one’s identity and culture and above all friendship.

The film centres around two friends – Audrey (Ashley Park – Emily In Paris) and Lolo (Sherry Cola – Good Trouble). The pair became best friends at a young age and instantly bonded because both had Chinese heritage.

But their lives couldn’t be more different. Lolo’s Chinese parents made sure she was well aware of her culture while Audrey who was adopted by a white American family knows nothing of her heritage. Even through school while they remained friends they were also very different – Audrey was always the student who was to succeed while Lolo was always in trouble – in fact she was voted Most Likely To Be Arrested.

Flash-forward to today and they are now young adults. Audrey is a successful lawyer and Lolo is an unemployed artist who lives in Audrey’s garage. Everything changes for them though when Audrey finds herself having to go to China to secure a client for her firm. Unable to speak fluent Chinese she decides to take Lolo with her to act as her interpreter.

Things don’t go to plan though. When they arrive at the airport Audrey learns that Lolo has brought her weird cousin, Deadeye (Sabrina Wu – Styx & Stones) along for the ride. Things get even worse when Audrey introduces Lolo to her college best friend, Kat (Stephanie Hsu – The Path), who now works as an actress in China… jealousy ensues.

But by far the worst thing to happen is that the client isn’t that interested in Audrey’s business proposal until he gets to learn more about her family – her birth family. Audrey is horrified to discover that Lolo had already tried to find out information about her birth mother and it soon sees the four on an ill-fated journey that seems doomed from the start.

There couldn’t be a more apt title for this film than Joy Ride because this is a film that really takes the audience on a ride as well – a truly emotional one with a good mix of comedy. It is rare that an outrageous comedy like this one, and be prepared there are a lot of adult jokes about sex to be found here, that also manages to have a serious side as well, but that is certainly what you will get here.

Lim’s screenplay gives the audience the best of both worlds. The humour hits the spot and the audience will find themselves laughing out loud very, very frequently. Then there is the more touching side to this story. As previously mentioned Joy Ride touches on some deep topics – things like self-indentity, culture and friendship but it does so with true emotion. There are emotional twists and turns throughout the film and Lim makes sure that the audience can never be prepared for what is going to happen next.

What also makes this film have such an emotional impact is the fact that the characters are not only likable but also relatable. Every single audience member will find themselves identifying with at least one of the characters in the film and the result is it feels like you are being taken on their emotional journey as well. There will be a lot of self-reflecting by people when they leave this film and that is not necessarily a bad thing.

The performances in Joy Ride are also amazing. Ashley Park, Sherry Cola, Sabrina Wu and Stephanie Hsu handle the fact that they have to mix both comedy with emotion in their roles and they it remarkably well. Sherry Cola certainly has a career in comedy ahead of her while Ashley Park has the skills to be Hollywood’s next big leading lady.

Joy Ride is a phenomenal film that is going to mean a lot to a lot of people. It is rare for an outrageous comedy to have so much heart and emotion attached to it and that is what makes this such a special film. Be prepared to laugh, be prepared to cry but above all be prepared to fall in love with Joy Ride.

4/5 Stars