Joy RideOctober 5, 2001
Three young people on a road trip from Colorado to New Jersey talk to a trucker on their CB radio, then must escape when he turns out to be a psychotic killer.
Release Year: 2001
Rating: 6.6/10 (29,412 voted)
Critic's Score: 75/100
Stars: Leelee Sobieski, Steve Zahn, Paul Walker
College student Lewis decides to drive across the country to see Venna, a friend who doesn't know that Lewis is interested in her romantically. Unfortunately for his plans, Lewis gets saddled with his raucous-spirited older brother, Fuller, whose on-the-road pranks get the brothers and Venna sucked into a nightmare when a psychotic truckdriver takes offense.
Writers: Clay Tarver, J.J. Abrams
Danny, Lewis' Roommate
Salt Lake City Police Desk Clerk
Assistant Salt Lake City Police Desk Clerk
Gas Station Mechanic
(as Luis Cortes)
Gas Station Manager
It was just a joke, just for fun.
Release Date: 5 October 2001
Filming Locations: Arvin, California, USA
Box Office Details
Opening Weekend: $7,347,259
(7 October 2001)
Did You Know?
The car they are driving is a 1971 Chrysler Newport.
Because of re-shoots, the dates are inconsistent. The insert of Lewis's plane ticket shows he purchased it 12 DEC 99 for a 12 APR (2000) flight, yet when Fuller signs for the release of his effects, he has dated the form "6-6-99".
He's watching us!
Transcends its flaws to earn a "B"
After Lewis Thomas (Paul Walker) buys a car to pick up would-be
girlfriend Venna (Leelee Sobieski) from college in Colorado, he learns
that his brother, Fuller (Steve Zahn), was jailed on a misdemeanor
charge in Salt Lake City. So he decides to pick up his brother first.
During a pit stop, Fuller has a mechanic install a CB radio. They joke
around with truckers, going so far as posing as a woman and setting up
a false date with one. When the prank turns to tragedy, the trucker
For the most part, Joy Ride is an enjoyable horror/thriller. It is
loaded with tension and it's easy for viewers to picture themselves in
the scenario, as it's relatively realistic. The horror is formed from
everyday situations, where just a couple bad decisions can lead one
into the sights of a madman.
However, I had to subtract two points for something I very rarely
subtract points for–"stupid decisions" on the part of protagonists. Of
course, some people think that horror films are primarily based on
characters making stupid decisions, but in my view of the genre, even
if such actions are clichéd, filmmakers generally justify such
decisions at least in the context of the film. Too often in Joy Ride,
writers Clay Tarver and J.J. Abrams, along with director John Dahl,
make little attempt at justification. Why don't they just turn the CB
off? Why don't they just ignore the villain? Why don't they call the
police? Why don't they stay in places that are more populated (like the
truckstop)? Why do they keep trusting the villain? While there are some
cursory answers to a few of these questions, taken together, you keep
wondering, "In the film's world, how can someone so stupid be in
One possible answer is suggested by the Joy Ride DVD. It contains a
29-minute alternate ending that thankfully has a bit of commentary from
both the director and the writer. The alternate ending is just is good
as the theatrical version, in my opinion, and tries to put a slightly
more logical spin on the film. Our heroes do end up at a police
station, with some police cooperation. However, it was apparently felt
that this alternate (actually the original) ending "didn't work" and
"didn't maintain tension". Abrams felt that involving the police more
directly in the plot removed too much of the focus from our heroes.
Dahl also states that he thought there was too much character
development in the original ending. I beg to differ on all of those
points. Although the revised ending has many positive aspects not found
in the original–especially a Rube Goldberg-like scenario involving
maximum, immediate risk and creating maximum tension, the original
ending may have worked better overall in my opinion.
But Joy Ride is good enough overall to transcend stupid decisions on
the part of the characters. If seen as a sequence of high-tension
scenarios, where logical plot connectors are only secondary to creating
thrilling rides, Joy Ride almost deserves an A (a 9 in my rating
system). There isn't a scenario in the film that's not smart and
inventive in some way. The three principles–Walker, Zahn and
Sobieski–give good performances, and the villain is masterfully done
by Matthew Kimbrough (who provided the body), Ted Levine (who provided
the bizarre, creepy voice), and Dahl, who wisely shows glimpses of him,
but only glimpses. The villain is almost supernatural in his
cleverness, strength and obsession. It's just too bad that we haven't
had a sequel yet.