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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Joy Ride: SE
Joy Ride: SE
Fox // R // March 12, 2002
List Price: $27.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by G. Noel Gross | posted March 15, 2002 | E-mail the Author
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CineSchlock-O-Rama

Delays. Lots of them. That's what the genre pictures Joy Ride (2001, 97 minutes) and Soul Survivors share in common. Studio suits wringing their hands. Hauling random groups of yahoos off the street to watch various incarnations of the films to determine what currently passes for entertainment. Passes is right. Not too this, not too that. Average date-movie material with enough stingers to create a cranium-rattling trailer. That'll put hineys in seats. Well, so does good cinema, but with millions of dollars being thrown at the screen there ain't no room for career-ending "creativity." The late great comedian, social commentator and fellow Texan Bill Hicks once lamented that it was focus groups who put the kibosh on the lesbian sex scenes in Basic Instinct, because THEY were TURNED OFF by them!!! Mr. Hicks suggested if he'd been at the screening, Michael Douglas would demand that HIS part be put BACK in. Ten years later, nothing's changed. If anything it's gotten worse, as evidenced by the slip 'n' slide theatrical release dates of these two flicks. At the very least Soul Survivors regained its teeth with a "Killer Cut" after being slashed for the financially coveted PG-13 rating, but Fox had the nerve to spin its Wheel of Endings as a super-cool "BONUS!" Why not throw in the corporate shackles worn by the filmmakers as well?

The movie: Lewis and Venna (Paul Walker and Leelee Sobieski) apparently spent many a late night in their dorm rooms coyly cooing at each other over the phone. But all heck breaks loose when Lewis indulges his inner-horndog by agreeing to drive cross country to play chauffer to the coed of his dreams. Along the way, he makes a detour to bail his wayward bubba Fuller (Steve Zahn) out of the pokey on a drunk and disorderly charge. Inexplicably, the two figure the best way to mend their estrangement is to blaze through the desert together in an old rattle trap, while yapping into a CB radio. Being a terminal wiseacre, Fuller decides it'd be a gas if Lewis were to talk all girly to the truckers in hopes of raising an antenna or two. Thus, Candy Cane is born. Trouble is "she" is courted by a homicidal maniac with the apt handle Rusty Nail (Ted Levine). Lovesick and lonesome, Rusty is readily lured in by these pranksters to a fruitless rendezvous at a roadside motel. The two stifle giggles as they listen through the wall as he knocks on the door, with pink champagne in hand, only to discover he's been duped. They wake the next morning to a parking lot swarming with local law enforcement. Seems the lodger next door was found sprawled in the highway with his jaw ripped clean off. That's when the cat 'n' mouse stuff starts with Lewis and Fuller staring wide-eyed at their CB radio as Rusty pontificates on their impending doom. His slow Southern drawl bouncing the horizontal signal meter on the CB -- sorta like K.I.T.T. from "Night Rider." They drive faster. They look frightened, especially when he starts yammering about their busted tail light. High-speed shenanigans ensue. The whole thing lurches and sputters with a series of contrived twists that culminate with Ms. Sobieski (a.k.a. The Fake Helen Hunt) lashed to the railroad tracks while Rusty twirls his moustache. Well, practically.

Embrace the manufactured tension, root for the Nailster and this ride is good for a bit of teeth grinding. But for the genuine article, check out Rutger Hauer in The Hitcher. CineSchlockers struggling to place Levine's voice will remember him as the moisturizer-obsessed Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs. However, the on-screen Rusty Nail was Matthew Kimbrough who got his face smashed into a desk by the great Terence Stamp in The Limey (an arty Charlie Bronson-esque revenge picture by it-director Steven Soderbergh).

Notables: No breasts. Two corpses. Mailbox clobbering. Gratuitous colorful redneck sheriff. Spike through the leg. Gratuitous chase through cornfield. Exploding truck. Gratuitous cherry stem knotting with tongue. Multiple tequila shots. Nekkid diner dash.

Quotables: The writers REALLY don't want us to like this guy, "If one more goddamn maid knocks on my door asking about towels! -- Where's your boss?! I want the REAL manager. The WHITE one! The one whose first language was [email protected]#&ing ENGLISH!" Fuller imparts his wisdom to his younger brother, "Just remind yourself that in a hundred years you're gonna be dead. That's the closest thing I've got to a philosophy."

Time codes: Horndog pitches fit and careens his car off the highway (8:40). Ambiguously gay CB conversation (13:28). Freeze-frame gorehound's delight (28:55). Brief, but nauseating love 'n' driving montage (50:20). Pretty decent look at boogeyman's mug (1:20:03).

Audio/Video: Mostly first-rate widescreen 2.35:1 transfer with digital grain evident in a handful of scenes. Fairly aggressive Dolby Digital 5.1 track that really resonates during the rain and THUNDER sequences.

Extras: THREE audio commentaries. About two too many, actually. Each have their moments. Director John Dahl pokes fun at such tracks while indulging many of the cliches himself. He does, however, take a timid swipe at moviemaking via test screenings. Writers Clay Tarver and J.J. "Felicity" Abrams share Dahl's aversion to the term "horror movie" and instead prefer Hollywood's favorite "psychological thriller" euphemism. If you didn't get way more than enough of quirky Stevie Zahn during the flick, he shares a seemingly-never-ending track with Ms. Sobieski. She reads the minds of most CineSchlockers by giddily admitting that, yes, she went braless and thinks her mondo nipplage is a real hoot. Atta girl, Lee.

Much has been made about the fact they've included FOUR different versions of the ending (necessitated by incessant second-guessing). None of which amount to much. The 30-minute original finale lifts its miss-miss-ka-blewy climax directly from Jaws. The other three total around 15 minutes with the best of the bunch being the gutsy storyboard version. No sequel room in that one, though. One deleted scene. Three Rusty Nail voice auditions (including CineSchlocker fave Eric Roberts). Brief "making of" featurette. There's also a dubious option to display an icon during playback indicating alternative scenes. Theatrical trailer. Slick motion-video menus with audio.

Final thought: Isolated moments of highly-manipulative suspense don't make a lasting impression. Let's hope the inevitable sequel allows Rusty Nail the latitude to exact some REAL revenge. Recommended.

Check out CineSchlock-O-Rama
for additional reviews and bonus features.

G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.
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