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Joy Ride

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Starring: Steve Zahn, Paul Walker, Leelee Sobieski and Mathew Kimbrough
Directed By: John Dahl
Rated: R

 

Ah, one of those cheap thrills...travelin' the U-S of A in a automobile...tunes blastin, pedal to the metal cruisin' at 75mph down the road to adventure...a dream for some; a horrific recurring nightmare to me. My mind envisions several serial killer movies were they hunt for state crossed prey or those delightful grease with a side-o-grease swanky "pit stops" where Carl's Jr. is a considered a Sunday eatins' delicacy filled with happy half-breeds with that distinctive down southy trailorville- one toothed- breedin'- multiple tattooed- bicolor hair cut in the latest in mullet sportin' style. Oh, and the hours of endless mind numbing tedium. Helpless. You are at the road's sinister mercy.

Joy Ride captures that oldtime feeling of helplessness the open road traveling horror films of the past had managed. It starts nice and calm; very happy go lucky. Then whack, Joy Ride hits you upside the head with a subtle lingering terror- and I'm not talking you're out of gas at the corner of historic Route 66 and there's nothing but the half lit light of the Motel 5 1/2 dimly over the horizon as your sanctuary. The cast is about to face much worse...

The story's simple the Thomas brothers are driving across the country. One, Lewis (Paul Walker), has bought a car in hopes of wooing his gal pal, Venna (Leelee Sobieski), with his offer of a college- to- home ride. The other brother, Fuller (Steve Zahn), is just outta prison and thankful his younger brother is even bothering to give him a lift. Heck, Fuller's just happy to be able to bend over for the soap without getting accosted- if you know what I'm saying.

At the beginning of the joy ride we meet Lewis as he's picking up Fuller at prison. Fuller's one of those overtly kinetic, yet harmless, brothers that never stops to take a breath between sentences. The two say their hellos and share visions of an Easy Rider smooth gig sailing across the tar and dust...But their desire for road games in lieu of mental stimulation leads them off the exit marked Creepland, with a left onto Anxietyville Boulevard with a brief but quick rest stop in Terror Town.

Unfortunately for the Thomas brothers the car Lewis bought for the trip comes with a CB radio. The CB is still widely used by the trucking community to communicate where the lowest diesel is up the road, or where the poe-leese is hanging around just waiting for them to break their stride and jettison over the speed limit. The CB had its public heyday back when Jim Stafford's Wildwood Weed was heard on every station, streaking was considered hip, music came in the form of the space-age eight track player and every car in-the-know- had their "Keep on Truckin" bumper sticker proudly displayed. The CB is just as much a part of American history as, say, the cowboy, the invention of television and fluoride toothpaste—kind of .

The brothers decide it would be swell to play a practical joke on one of the CB users they've found. So Fuller eggs his brother on to impersonate a foxy lady to a lonely truck driver somewhere out here on the road. They snag a trucker with the CB handle of " Rusty Nail."

The two hoodwink the driver with promises of romance and possible fornication by way of a surprisingly passable impersonation of a lady looking for a little lovin'. They go so far as to arrange a meeting down the road at a small motel. (think Bates and you'll be with me..)

The boys are just being boys; they don't figure he'll actually show...

Rusty Nail shows up all right, complete with the pink champagne they've, er, she requested. He's non-to pleased to find a man in the designated room given -- not the brothers' room mind you, but their neighbor at the hotel.

When Rusty Nail is greeted by the less than amorous occupant of the faux room of lust he kind of freaks out—to say the least. The boys hear some commotion but figure it's just the practical joke coming to a head.

They are horrified the next morning when they discover their silly prank practically cost the room inhabitant his life. They're scared to their marrow. But, they give their statements, tell the less than amused local sheriff their story and decide to head on. And try and put the whole nasty event behind them.

They pick up Lewis' friend Venna (Leelee Sobieski) at her college as planned and head towards home. They decide it's best to just not tell Venna about the terrible incident and their little plan nearly works until Rusty Nail finds them via the CB. Angry words are exchanged and Venna - a college student after all - is suspicious and wants answers.

So begins Joy Ride's suspenseful, often terrifying, rabid cat and scurrying mouse game. The boys have managed to hook a serial killer with no sense of humor!

Steve Zahn, who's turning out to be an enjoyable actor, delivers a fine performance as the wisecracking' loser brother Fuller.

Paul Walker finally gets a real role! It's a good performance by a near-man that will soon be the cutest cupcake in the man bakery-- he just needs a few age lines ala George Clooney. That man...Yum Central! Walker, too, looks as if he will just get more scrumptious with age like a fine California Merlot.

Leelee Sobieski, who just appeared in The Glass House, is a pleasure to watch. Poor kid's a bit of a bimbo in interviews...it's probably nerves. Well, that or the DNA she shares with Helen Hunt. Are those two like twins born years apart or what?

Joy Ride is great; it's just scary enough to produce a shiver, and intelligent enough to make you care about the young roadsters. Enjoy!

Snack Recommendations: Candy canes, corn on the cob and pink champagne.

 

 

 

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