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Joy Ride

  • compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2001 1 Jan
Joy Ride
from Film Forum, 10/18/01

Got an itch for an action flick? Consider Joy Ride, the latest thriller from director John Dahl, who hit the scene with a small wonder called Red Rock West a decade ago. It's a case of pranksters whose troublemaking comes back to haunt them—in a 16-wheeler trailer truck.

The Dove Foundation's John Adair says, "Joy Ride provides a few surprises, but more than enough bad dialogue and ridiculous coincidences for any one movie. While it appears that [the main characters] learn their lesson about playing pranks on people, plenty of objectionable content fills the film. The objectionable elements take any pleasure right out of Joy Ride."

Bob Smithouser at Focus on the Family says, "Give this nail-biter credit for creating an eerie sense of dread and making the audience care about the people in peril. Joy Ride's variations in emotional pitch (creepy one second, funny the next) keep viewers off guard. In short, it's a thriller that actually thrills." So is that a recommendation? Wait, there's more: "The movie's 96 minutes are rife with obscenities … inappropriate language … violence … tequila and beer … rear male nudity. Hence, Joy Ride breaks down, stranding viewers—morally—in the middle of nowhere."

According to the USCC, "Though the territory is familiar, John Dahl's direction produces briskly paced suspense and a few goose bumps, but the narrative's mean-spirited tone is as disturbing as the actual terror."

Many mainstream critics found themselves pleasantly surprised. Anthony Lane casts Joy Ride in contrast to the other "noir of the week," Mulholland Falls: "Dahl has no intention to baffle or obscure; his objective is to scare the living daylights out of you, or, more pertinently, the dying headlights. To someone as buffish as Dahl, the antique shocks, like the old jokes, are still the best … although we may squirm as the movie tightens the noose, it is nothing we haven't felt before. That doesn't lessen the pressure, but it may explain why we keep going back for more."

And Ebert says, "Joy Ride is a first-rate pure thriller, an exercise that depends on believable characters and the director's skill in putting the pieces together. You want to be scared and have a few laughs and not have your intelligence insulted? Here you go."