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The return of rude: Hollywood brings back the raunchy comedy

After a dearth of R-rated big screen hijinks, the industry bets again on films like No Hard Feelings and Joy Ride to lure crowds Joy Ride, in theaters this Friday, is not for the modest. The R-rated road trip movie, from the director Adele Lim (Crazy Rich Asians), follows four friends, played by Ashley Park, Sabrina Wu, Sherry Cola and the Oscar nominee Stephanie Hsu (from Everything Everywhere All at Once), on a weeklong romp through China that is deliriously deranged and unapologetically lascivious. There’s a moving plot about searching for one’s identity after a life in white America and a pointed subversion of the trope of meek Asian women. But Joy Ride is primarily crass and vigorous, viscerally horny comedy, pulling from such R-rated touchstones as The Hangover, Bridesmaids and Girls Trip – binge drinking and vomit, copious references to several orifices, cartoonish clouds of cocaine, a raucous sex montage that made me giggle with a sound I have not heard from myself in a long time. In other words, not something often seen on the big screen these days, as Hollywood studios, weathering the bite of streaming services and the pandemic, pivot even further into franchise fare and mined IP. Given the endless sinkhole of options from one’s couch, theatrical releases tend to bet on the appeal of a communal movie-watching experience – the hype of a franchise release, or a big-name spectacle (such as Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer), a new spin on a familiar name (the Barbie movie) or elevated, offbeat horror (this year’s surprise box office hits M3gan or Cocaine Bear). The 90s and 2000s were full of decently reviewed and profitable R-rated romps – American Pie, Superbad, The Hangover, the catalog of Judd Apatow stoner bro movies, etc – but it’s been a long time since moviegoers could rally around boundary-pushing, gut-twisting laughs. Continue reading...

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