Most college students' road trips include hitting local bars and maybe picking up a hitchhiker. In the new thriller "Joy Ride," there is more running from a crazed trucker using a big rig in way he shouldn't than radio sing-alongs and arguing over who has to drive next.
Lewis (Paul Walker) is driving home to New Jersey after his freshman year at Berkeley, but this is no "Fast and the Furious" driving. He's crossing the country in a clunky used car, only stopping to pick up his high school gal pal Vinnia (Leelee Sobieski) from school in Boulder, Colo.
Lewis's trip takes an unexpected turn when he decides to bail his estranged drunken brother Fuller (Zahn) out of jail in Salt Lake City. Fuller installs a CB radio, and the problems begin.
After much encouragement from Fuller, Lewis uses his breathy girl trucker voice, aka Candy Cane, to tell fellow trucker Rusty Nail to meet her at the Lone Star Motel, Room 17, for some late-night fun. When Rusty Nail gets stood up, he does not make for a happy driver, and sets out to find Candy Cane.
Their roadtrip seems to be heading in a better direction after picking up Vinnia, but -- of course -- not for long.
"Joy Ride" alternates from being hilarious to frightening and back again. Mountains of humor from Zahn turn quickly into valleys of fright, keeping the audience members on their toes.
Zahn is at his comedic best with witty one-liners that keep you laughing even when you shouldn't be. His cracks sound like an edgier "Sammy'', his soft-spoken, wisecracking "Reality Bites" character.
It's hard not to laugh even when he's using his "frightened," wide-eyed look and saying "Yeah we're OK, considering we aren't murdered," after one of many encounters with Rusty Nail. Zahn carries the movie, with Walker adding more comedy than usual and Sobieski playing her "Down to Earth" character, only less developed. One thing their character's don't lack is chemistry.
Even though "Joy Ride" could be marked as a typical teen horror movie, especially since it features Tiger Beat pin-up Walker, the plot and humor are for a more mature audience, so leave the kiddies at home.
Watching most horror movies, you can immediately tell who is going to die, who's going to have sex, and predict almost the whole movie. "Joy Ride" is different -- typical situations didn't happen, and a lot of surprises did.
Sequel or no sequel, the film isn't going to profoundly change your life. But it does provide a fun diversion for a couple hours.
"Joy Ride" opens Oct. 5, so grab a date to cling to for the scary parts now.
The Arts & Entertainment Editor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.