Olivia Colman and a precocious preteen embark on a fraught road trip in this affable dramedy.
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By Jeannette Catsoulis
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“Joyride,” a grievously schematic blend of odd-couple comedy and life-affirming road movie, traverses the Irish countryside with a small degree of charm and a boatload of blarney.
The two leads, however (Olivia Colman and Charlie Reid), sweat to sell the bejesus out of the material, fighting a wan and wobbly script (by Ailbhe Keogan) laden with Celtic clichés. When Mully (Reid), a confident 12-year-old, sees his ne’er-do-well father (Lochlann O’Mearain) swipe money intended for the hospice that cared for Mully’s deceased mother, the boy grabs the cash and takes off in a stolen taxi. Unfortunately, a middle-aged woman (Colman) and her unwanted newborn baby are both snoring in the back seat.
The woman, Joy, plans to offload the infant on a childless friend (Aisling O’Sullivan) some miles away, then board a plane for a Spanish vacation. Prickly and desperate, she needs help; and Mully, wise and empathetic beyond his years, is about to prove himself not only a skilled chauffeur but an accomplished breastfeeding coach. To say the film has credibility issues would be an understatement.
Growing sillier by the minute, “Joyride” is the first fiction feature directed by Emer Reynolds, a skilled documentary filmmaker. Emotional wounds are uncovered — most poignantly in one spare flashback to Joy’s childhood — but the tone is unruly at best, with perky pop songs and comic cameos (a garrulous van driver, a friendly flutist) interrupting intense conversations about parenting and its attendant responsibilities. The movie’s good-natured bounce, sadly, can’t distract from the visual blandness as our squabbling pair heads toward the end of a journey that’s been clearly signposted since the beginning.
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 34 minutes. Rent or buy on Apple TV, Google Play and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators.
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