Screenwriters Adele Lim, Cherry Chevapravatdumrong, and Teresa Hsiao wanted to amuse themselves and create a kind of movie they had never seen before and crafted Joy Ride. “We wanted to write a movie about our friends, about people who we’ve never really seen in these situations that can be funny and raunchy and messy,’” says Hsiao.
From the creative and brilliant minds of Cherry Chevapravatdumrong (the sitcom Family Guy), Teresa Hsiao (the TV series Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens), and Adele Lim (Crazy Rich Asians) comes Joy Ride.
No matter our backgrounds, we all have at least one hot mess friend. You know the type—their hilarious, often jaw-dropping antics are the stuff of legend, subject to endless retellings. Having trouble pinpointing that person in your own group? Well, you just might be the hot mess friend.
Those kinds of friendships inspired Lim, Chevapravatdumrong, and Hsiao to create Joy Ride.
“Cherry, Teresa, and I would go out to dinner and talk about all our messed-up, thirsty, ridiculous friends,” says Crazy Rich Asians and Raya and the Last Dragon screenwriter Adele Lim, who makes her feature directorial debut with Joy Ride.
“One day, we were cracking ourselves up, thinking that we need to write a movie about this. We don’t know who’s going to want to make this, but it’ll make us happy. So, we would show up to my house every Thursday and break the story, just for the hell of it. And we made ourselves laugh nonstop.”
It took Lim, Chevapravatdumrong, and Hsiao a little more time to realize that they had a real gem on their hands. But when the three began seeking producers for their script, they soon discovered their story made plenty of other people laugh nonstop, too. Namely, some very important folks at Point Grey Pictures, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s production banner. A major player in the R-rated comedy space, Point Grey’s producing roster includes titles like Blockers and Good Boys, the same kinds of films that inspired Lim and Joy Ride’s co-writers.
“Look at their credits—it seemed like such a no-brainer,” says Chevapravatdumrong. “They
make the exact kind of movie that we wanted this to be.”
As they worked on the Joy Ride script, Chevapravatdumrong and Hsiao were unsure if they would ever bring their “nasty baby” (per Hsiao) into the world. “When we started writing the movie, we never actually thought it would get made,” Hsiao says. “We were just like, ‘We’re going to write this dumb thing.’”
Chevapravatdumrong and Hsiao frequently describe Joy Ride as the kind of comedy they wanted to watch when they were growing up. That being said, viewers may want to leave their kids and parents at home this summer. “Our parents, we want a camera on them when they see it for the first time,” Chevapravatdumrong jokes. “We’re scared. We don’t know what’s going to happen.”
“In addition to the film’s themes of identity and self-discovery, Joy Ride also provides a poignant focus on friendship. The main quartet’s bonds with one another will make you love and empathize with the characters all the more and might lead you to plan some new adventures with your own friends. “This movie is this joy-filled, bananas romp, getting into the most insane, sometimes dangerous, very sexually inappropriate situations and coming out on the other side being stronger for it,” Lim says.
In Joy Ride Asian American adoptee Audrey (Ashley Park, Emily in Paris) is living the dream. Raised in the picturesque small town of White Hills, she has a successful law career, a close relationship with her parents, and her longtime best friend, Lolo (Sherry Cola, Good Trouble), literally lives in her backyard. But Audrey is ready for more. To become a partner at her law firm and leave White Hills behind, she just needs to close one important deal with a client in China. Sounds straightforward enough, until Lolo encourages Audrey to use the trip to locate her birth mother. Instead of soaring to new heights in her career, Audrey finds herself and her friends on a life-changing journey across Asia with her friends, learning much more about themselves and each other, and what it means to truly know and love yourself in all ways possible.
The Point Grey team also impressed the three women by demonstrating their commitment to Joy Ride’s roots
“They made it clear that they wanted us to be heavily involved in the movie,” says Hsiao. “They were like, ‘This is your movie, we want to be here as much as we can to support you in this.’ They were so helpful because we had never done this before. Just having that experience was really great, and them trusting us with the process was also wonderful.”
Lionsgate signed on to produce and distribute the film shortly thereafter. And when the guys at Point Grey approached Lim to direct, she knew she was up to the challenge. “I was lucky enough to have these partners at Point Grey and Lionsgate who were like, ‘Are you ready for this?’” says Lim. “I didn’t even know I had the answer inside of me, but it was just: Yes, 100%.”
Production on Joy Ride would prove to be a trial by fire for the first-time director. Almost all of the film’s 94 minutes were shot in just 34 days in 2021, with various locations around Vancouver, Canada standing in for parts of China and, later, Seoul, South Korea.
Making a One-Of-A-Kind Comedy
Once producers did get involved, though, they surprised Lim and the co-writers by providing overwhelming support. Moreover, they encouraged the three women to dive deeper into the script’s zaniest moments.
“When we brought it to Point Grey and Lionsgate, we were bracing ourselves for them to tell us to pull it back,” Lim says. “To our delight, they said, ‘Not only do we embrace all of this and want to celebrate it with you, we want you to lean harder into it.’”
That enthusiasm is typical of Point Grey’s sensibilities. What else would you expect from the studio behind films like Sausage Party and This Is the End?
“We’re not the team who tell people to hold back,” says producer Evan Goldberg, co-founder of Point Grey Pictures. “We tell people to go for it. We love making surprisingly emotional, but extremely funny films that are raunchy.”
Hsiao and Chevapravatdumrong’s script ticked several boxes for a Point Grey project: fresh, unapologetically bold, and deeply irreverent, with just the right amount of genuine emotion to ground the storyline. Goldberg and the other producers at Point Grey—Seth Rogen, Josh Fagen, and James Weaver—also could not resist the film’s working title. “I heard the original title the writers were intending to use, which was Joy F*ck Club,” says Fagen. “A lot of scripts that we get are ones people send to us; this is actually one we chased. I badgered the agents and was like, ‘You got to send that to me.’ It was exactly what we hoped it was: this Hangover/Girls Trip-type movie that also had a cultural specificity and driving plot that haven’t been seen in this kind of movie before.”
An unusual film and an unusual production studio, Joy Ride and Point Grey turned out to be perfect matches for each other.
“There’s not a lot of people who seem that interested in trying to make big, comedic, R-rated movies that destroy in a theater and have something in them that resonates for years to come,” Rogen says. “It’s something that we genuinely love doing.”
The significance of Point Grey and Lionsgate’s backing is not lost upon the Joy Ride cast, either. In addition to the film’s producers and writers, the cast also contributed to making the film as hilarious and heartfelt as possible. During long days on set, the actors often traded off lines based on which character they felt would best fit.
Stephanie Hsu describes the on-set creative process–“We had the blessing of having a bunch of writers on set who were constantly giving us more jokes,” Hsu says. “But the writers welcomed us into that process as well. So, when we had jokes we wanted to try or bits we wanted to run, we’d also write them down. It’s been a really fun and collaborative experience.”
Director, writer, and producer ADELE LIM is a Malaysian native of Chinese descent, she came to the United States at 19 and graduated from Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts. She wrote the screenplays fo rCrazy Rich Asians and Raya and the Last Dragon, and has written and produced multiple primetime network TV dramas, including One Tree Hill (The CW), Private Practice (ABC), and Lethal Weapon (FOX), and was co-showrunner and Executive Producer of Starcrossed (The CW). She mentors emerging writers through the WGA (Writers Guild of America) and CAPE (Coalition of Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders in Entertainment) to promote equity and representation in entertainment. Joy Ride is her feature directorial debut.
Writer-producer CHERRY CHEVAPRAVATDUMRONG has also worked as a writer and executive producer for Family Guy and The Orville and as a writer and producer for Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens and Resident Alien. She recently wrote, along with Hsiao, the American adaptation of Stephen Chow’s hit movie The Mermaid for Columbia/Sony. As an author, she has written two YA novels, She’s So Money and DupliKate (which she is currently adapting as a feature for Universal) and is a contributor to the anthology Open Mic: Riffs on Life Between Cultures in Ten Voices. Cherry is originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan, and currently lives in Los Angeles.
Writer-producer TERESA HSIAO is the co-creator, writer, and executive producer alongside Awkwafina for Comedy Central’s Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens. Teresa currently has an overall deal with Sony Pictures Television to develop comedy and animation for cable/streaming platforms via her Red 136 Productions.
Along with Cherry, she most recently wrote the American adaptation of Stephen Chow’s The Mermaid for Columbia/Sony Pictures. Originally from Boston, Teresa currently resides in Los Angeles.