John Dahl’s Joy Ride is tailor-made for the Scream crowd. College boy Lewis (Paul Walker) caters to a whim, driving cross-country to pick up Venna (Leelee Sobieski) in order to drive her home for the summer. On the way, he bails his drunk older brother Fuller (Steve Zahn, Chris Tucker’s white doppelganger) out of jail. For fun, the moron decides to crank call a trucker with a CB radio he installs in Lewis’s car. (Lest we forget this is a postmodern horror flick, Fuller likens the radio to the “prehistoric Internet.”) The stodgy Lewis caves, going along with his brother’s “trick the truck driver” routine. They lure “Rusty Nail” (voiced by Matthew Kimbrough) to a hotel where they’re staying only to incur his anger when the faceless boogie man realizes he isn’t going to be meeting a pink champagne-loving “Candy Cane.” Clearly these brothers are unfamiliar with Deliverance: never mess with white trash (they’re a tight community). Until now, Joy Ride is in fine working order: the trucks are scary and seem to have a life of their own while Dahl’s color schemes are as over-ripe as his playfully contemptuous concept of live in the American heartland. Gratuitous yet evocative visual flourishes abound (a zoom into a seascape painting evokes better-places-than-here). As written by Jeffrey Abrams (Armageddon) and Clay Tarver, Joy Ride lacks the punchy fetishism of Dahl’s minimalist sleepers Red Rock West and The Last Seduction. Typically efficient for a Dahl film, Joy Ride still smells of Hollywood. Mr. Rusty forces Lewis and Fuller to walk naked into a diner during the film’s best scene. This attention to sexual humiliation, though, is entirely too softcore. Has Mr. Rusty even seen Deliverance? Dahl does the best he can with cornfields, motel rooms and a few music oldies but Joy Ride is entirely too noisy to ever deserve a place next to Spielberg’s Duel.
- John Dahl
- Jeffrey Abrams, Clay Tarver
- Paul Walker, Steve Zahn, Leelee Sobieski, Matthew Kimbrough, Brian Varady, Jim Beaver, Stuart Stone, Rachel Singer, Jessica Bowman
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