Monday, January 9, 2012

Come On, Join the Joy Ride

I had a curious urge to rewatch the early 2000s car-based thriller, Joy Ride aka Road Kill, last night. Thankfully I own a copy so that was easy enough, but I do always find it funny how the strangest movie-watching whims can overtake my brain sometimes. Released in Australia as Road Kill - presumably the distributor thought that Roxette's "Joyride" was still so engrained in our public consciousness that a film by the same name some ten years later just couldn't make it in the marketplace without people assuming it was Roxette: The Movie? - Joy Ride aka Road Kill is actually a very nifty little thriller, and surely one of the finer efforts in the teen thriller subgenre. Much like how many teen films are actually just famous adult-oriented films with a younger cast (think Disturbia and Rear Window or any Shakespeare adaptation starring Julia Stiles!), Joy Ride aka Road Kill is sort of like Steven Spielberg's exemplary Duel as directed by a fine Hitchcock wannabe (in this case, John Dahl, he of The Last Seduction). In the annals of Hollywood attempts at "Hitchcockian" filmmaking, I doubt Joy Ride aka Road Kill will get much respect - another on-the-road truck thriller, Roadgames, on the other hand is stunning and deservedly gets praise from anyone who sees it - but it actually deserves it. It's a fine piece of tightly wound filmmaking, drenched in the colours of roadside motels and scorching sun and framed with gorgeous widescreen shots, it has enough tricks up its sleeve to make each new scary moment work quite effectively. Marco Beltrami's score yet again echoes his score for Scream and, thus, is very good. It easily rises above Paul Walker's astoundingly bad performance (even by his standard, the early scenes here are dire) and so it's such a shame that it barely registered a blip on the radar at the time. With none of its cast going on to any particularly masterful careers that could lend it to being rediscovered like Spielberg's Duel or Heath Ledger in Ten Things I Hate About You deservedly have, it remains a bit of a forgotten gem.

Of course, there is this scene, which will surely never be forgotten by anybody with eyes and a preference for the male gender.

"Would you like fries with that?"

Straight teenage boys of the 1980s had Phoebe Cates topless poolside, so I think it's acceptable that I had Steve Zahn's naked rear end and boots as a formative part of my teenage years, yeah?

Yeah! Paul Walker's backside ain't too bad either. Ahem.

Selling the film a tad short, however, is cast-member Leelee Sobieski. She of the enduring 'young Helen Hunt' tag and mature-beyond-her-years voice provides one of the three (THREE!) audio commentaries to Joy Ride aka Road Kill's DVD and she describes the above nude scene as "the scene ... where they run naked and that's just the point of the whole film." She also comments that "this is just genius!" and I can't say I disagree! Can we talk about Leelee Sobieski's audio commentary for a moment though? I don't tend to listen to audio commentaries all that often - something about spending upwards of 90 minutes listening to what can really only amount to a lot of nonsense and yawnsome small talk - but I randomly gave this track a go last night because I wasn't tired enough for sleep and thought they might have something comical to say about the nude scene. Alas...

Really, this commentary is truly bonkers. Right off the bat she admits to hoping she doesn't make a commentary that's merely her pointing out what's happening - "that's me and Paul in a car!" she says for instance - so when she instantly does do this I kinda figured she was taking the piss. Before long she's discussing how funny it is that her character is wearing brown underwear because "I don't think anybody wears brown underwear, but I'm going to Brown University at the moment and I think they should manufacture Brown Brown Underwear because I think that would be really funny." O_O and it only gets weirder. I can honestly say I laughed a lot throughout the parts that I watched and it reminded me a lot of the Arnold Schwartzenegger in Total Recall commentary that is so good. Sobieski, at one point, informs us dear listeners "that was a real truck, ladies and gentlemen!" before going into a baffling five-minute long one-sided conversation about corn. Corn this! Corn that! Corn! CORN! I didn't count, but I reckon she said the word "corn" about 100 times during that one scene in the cornfield. Corn! Not too long after that she's discussing her recent trip to Caracas, impersonating Native American tribal chants, wishing she had a horrible ex boyfriend so she could destroy his car, and about how "I find fire to be really, really beautiful... and it's really hot AND CAN BURN YOU!" Leelee's mad, you guys!

"I look really ugly there."

I like that whenever Steve Zahn pops up he doesn't even pretend to have anything insightful to add and instead just impersonates car noises. I guess that sits nicely alongside Leelee impersonating Linda Blair in The Exorcist for some reason (it actually related to how she got cuts from the cornfield and was worried she's look like Reagen!) In the end, I had a hoot watching that audio commentary. Certainly provided far more entertainment than I was ever expecting. Towards the end Leelee apologises for being "hyper" after having drunk some Canadian Dry frappucino like drink and exclaiming "it's always fun to share boob stories!" Indeed it is, Leelee. Indeed it is.


cinefile said...

I used to love this movie when I was a teenager for the (almost exact) opposite reason you did: as near as I could tell, Leelee Sobieski didn't wear a bra at all, or at least not in the entire first act. I think I've even watched it with all three audio commentaries, and you're right, hers is way up there in the annals of banality next to Arnie's one for TOTAL RECALL. A few years later, when I started getting genuinely interested in movies, I realised JJ Abrams wrote this, which I still find neat little factoid.

On the topic of audio commentaries: Unlike you, I do tend to listen to quite a few commentaries; even the worst of them have a couple of vaguely interesting moments... The best of them—the really chatty ones like Kevin Smith's where it seems like most of the people in the recording booth are drunk and/or high—are great. I've recently watched seasons three and four of THE SIMPSONS with audio commentary on, mostly because I was planning on buying seasons 5-9 on DVD. That won't be happening: no matter how much Matt Groening tries to stimulate conversation, the writers, directors, and showrunners—in these seasons Mike Reiss and Al Jean—have absolutely nothing of any real interest to talk about. The number of times they say things like "This must be our 100th CITIZEN KANE reference..." is astounding.

Glenn Dunks said...

There's actually a whole bit in Leelee's commentary about how she discusses the fact that she wears no bra! She's like "oh here's a panning shot of the girl of Paul's dreams and oh there's my nipples!"