Take one tablespoon Duel, add a drop of The Hitcher, and stir in just a dollop of Road Games for extra zest, and, amazingly enough, you still get the heaping bowl of vanilla that is Joy Ride.
Joy Ride starts promisingly enough, with student, Lewis (Walker) driving to Colorado to pick up his newly single gal-pal Venna (Sobieski). En route, Lewis bails his estranged brother Fuller (Zahn) out of a Salt Lake City jail and the two have some fun with a C.B. radio at the expense of a disturbed trucker, Rusty Nail ( voiced by Silence of the Lamb's Ted Levine). When their prank backfires, the trio are pursued by the trucker who wants more than an apology.
The first half-hour of Joy Ride is a slick and breezy road film, with some witty banter between the brothers, their ill-fated prank, and the tension that mounts as a result, however, all momentum is lost when Venna is added to the mix, and the film seems to slow to a crawl, with the latter half betraying the refreshing first act with one road-rage movie cliché after another and a predictably tidy conclusion. It's a shame because I felt as though the chemistry between Walker and Zahn really worked going in, but the balance was completely compromised by Sobieski's presence as little more than bait.
Director Dahl shows a visual flair for the thriller genre, but the film's seems to limp along offering Dahl few chances to push our collective buttons, and when he does, it's something you saw coming a mile away.
The main extras feature on this disc are a series of alternate endings and deleted or extended scenes. Now, these aren't your typical alternate endings with a sentence of dialogue added, or an extra few seconds of carnage. These are full-fledged alternate final acts!! The "Original Ending" picks up and run's 29 minutes!! As a matter of fact, with its addition, it's a different movie altogether, with a tighter pace, grittier climax, and a better finale. Out of the 4 possible endings, the finished cut is the worst one! Had they stuck with the original ending the film would have still been less than stellar, but would've earned at least another half skull from me!
This DVD is actually the best thing about Joy Ride, because this sucker is loaded. Besides the alternate scenes (which add up to almost an hour) there's two commentaries, one of which feature actors Zahn and Sobieski who are fucking hilarious. Zahn's manic energy and Sobieski's very dry and intelligent witticisms make for one of the better commentaries I have heard. We also get a commentary from Dahl, and writers Clay Tarver and J.J. Abrams, a making of featurette, a "More than one Rusty Nail" feature which allows us to compare two other voices of the trucker, one of which belongs to fallen star Eric Roberts, to Levine's deep throated delivery. There is also a "More than one Joy Ride" feature that has a follow-the-icon scheme which lets you view the film in several different combinations, essentially allowing you to "Build Yer Own" film, something the producers obviously neglected to let Dahl do.
While Joy Ride walks no new path (as a matter of fact, it's soles are caked with the mud of several movies past!), it's a competent and harmless distraction that could have been much more.