Joy Ride

          There are some startling moments in the new thriller from
  20th Century-Fox called
JOY RIDE but, like many recent entries into
  the genre, if one reflects on the plot, one finds more holes than in a
  moth-eaten sweater. It's not that
JOY RIDE doesn't do its work while
  unspooling: there are the requisite thrills, followed by the slightly boring
  expository sequences designed to lull the audience into tranquility before
  unleashing utter mayhem. Almost all of the points on a checklist
  have been met as well: unwitting hero(es); unseen, menacing villain;
  damsel in distress; etc. The script credited to Clay Tarver and J.J. Abrams
  serves as a perfect outline for director John Dahl to use, it's just that
  a lot of the ideas have been done before and in more thrilling ways.

          JOY RIDE concerns the cross-country driving trip of blond stud
  muffin Lewis Thomas (Paul Walker who clearly didn't get enough of
  cars in
THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS and continues to mimic Keanu
  Reeves in his performing style). When he learns that his dream girl
  Venna (Leelee Sobieski, who projects so much intelligence one has
  to wonder if she bothered to read the script before committing to
  the project) has no way of getting back to their home in New Jersey,
  he cashes in an airline ticket (not such a bad idea given recent historical
  events) and buys a secondhand car. Along the way, he makes a detour
  to Salt Lake City to bail out his ne'er-do-well older brother Fuller (Steve
  Zahn, who manages to enliven whatever film he's in). As payback, Fuller
  has a CB radio installed in Lewis' car. (Those of us who were old enough
  to recall the CB craze of the mid-1970s may miss the logic in this, but
  Fuller explains that it's like a primitive form of the Internet.) Deciding
  to engage in a little harmless mischief, Fuller goads his brother into
  adopting a woman's voice with the handle "Candy Cane" who soon
  catches the attention of a truck driver who goes by "Rusty Nail".
  (The studio has not identified the actor providing the voice.) They
  tease "Rusty Nail" a bit and then lose contact with him. When the
  brothers decide to check into a motel, another rude guest rubs Fuller
  the wrong way and as payback has "Candy" set up a date with the
  occupant of the motel room. When that man is found near death the
  next day, the plot really starts to kick in.

          "Rusty Nail" obviously didn't enjoy the prank and begins a
  campaign of seeking revenge that occupies the remainder of the film.
  Having a truck driver as a villain was handled very effectively by
  Steven Spielberg in the 1971 TV movie
DUEL to which JOY RIDE
owes more than a passing debt. As anyone who has ever driven (or
  even ridden as a passenger) on a highway knows, a tractor trailer
  can indeed inspire fear and unease. Had the film concentrated on
  that aspect, there might have been an intriguing drama, although
  it is doubtful that anything new could have been added to the genre.
  By having the villain in the film suddenly become omniscient, however,
  all logic is dispersed and the movie devolves into standard fare
  beneath the talents of all involved. Instead of a real
  the film becomes a run-of-the-mill movie with a forced third act
  that doesn't quite add up.

Rating:                 D+
MPAA Rating:        R for violence/terror and language
Running time:        97 mins.
© 2007 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.