Monday, September 01, 2014

"I Don't Know Where I'm Going. But I Sure Know Where I've Been." - Whitesnake

 From The Cinema Vaults: Joyride
There's something surprisingly genuine about a movie in which a trio of youngsters - all played by children of Hollywood stars - head off to Alaska because they're fed up with life. That's the hook of Joyride, a 1977 drama by director Joseph Ruben. Although the flick never really reaches great heights, it's an interesting place to start.

Desi Arnaz Jr., Robert "Revenge of the Nerds" Carradine, and nineteen year old Melanie Griffith star as the newcomers to blue collar Alaska who quickly learn nothing - from holding a job to paying for booze to winning a pissing contest - is quite as easy as they thought it would be up north. So of course they turn to crime, eventually finding themselves wanted for robbery and taking in a hostage (played by Anne Lockhart, daughter of June, making her another Hollywood baby) as they try to get free from life's problems.

The most genuine aspect of the film is certainly the actors, each of whom are believable as down on their luck youngsters despite their real life lineage. Arnaz Jr. never made it big as an actor, but he's certainly the heart of the film here while Carradine seems to be channeling his older brother Keith as the angrier of the two men. Griffith shows some of her future talent but is overshadowed by Lockhart, who brings a confident edge to the film as she moves from prostitute to hostage to ally.
Like its lead characters, the film unfortunately seems to wander a bit too often. Despite the title this is not a fast paced thriller, and the introspective side of the drama isn't always engaging. The characters are richly developed as the film moves through the twists in their relationships, but it never feels very urgent. The final scenes convey the film's ideas on how the characters' lives have changed forever, but even then it feels like the changes haven't been too substantial.

Joyride is directed by Joseph Ruben, who was in between his start on low budget drive-in fare (The Sister-In-Law, The Pom Pom Girls) and a future that would include horror classic The Stepfather and Hollywood fare like Sleeping With The Enemy and The Good Son. He's one of those directors that nobody ever really talks about, despite the fact that he's made some good movies with A-List casts, but he's always been a steady hand as a director and you can see that here.  

Joyride never really becomes a profound coming-of-age tale - the script is a little too hollow and the stakes are never high enough to make us feel strongly about the characters' journey - but it has some beautiful photography and an engaging cast and that's enough to make me glad that I dug this one up for an afternoon viewing. If you come across it and are in the mood for a simple youth-in-revolt drama, you might dig it.

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