George Clooney and Julia Roberts Bring Movie Star Charm to Fluffy Rom-Com ‘Ticket to Paradise’
‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’s Ol Parker co-writes and directs an old-school comedy that fully embraces the usual cliches to mostly winning effect.
Opening in theaters on October 21st, ‘Ticket to Paradise’ aims to make up for several years without a star-focused romantic comedy. And it has two major, not-so-secret weapons in Julia Roberts and George Clooney.
The film, written by Ol Parker and Daniel Pipski, and directed by Parker, is also a throwback to an earlier era of rom-com, one before the cast were even born (think 1940’s ‘His Girl Friday’).
‘Ticket to Paradise’ kicks off with divorced couple David (Clooney) and Georgia (Roberts) who begrudgingly reunite to attend daughter Lily’s (Kaitlyn Dever) graduation. The pair jumped into marriage 25 years ago, only for the relationship to flame out after half a decade.
Since going their separate ways, they’ve largely stayed away from each other, since their interactions tend to devolve into sniping (“worst 19 years of my life,” David cracks when Georgia mentions to someone that they used to be married. “We were only married for five,” Georgia reminds him. “I’m counting the recovery,” says David).
But when Lily and best friend Wren (Billie Lourd) head off to Bali to celebrate finishing college, Lily ends up meeting hunky, sweet local Gede (Maxime Bouttier), and decides she’s going to stay and marry him. Horrified at the idea of their genius offspring ditching a promising law career for life with a seaweed farmer, the parents agree to put aside their differences and work to stop Lily making what they see as a huge mistake – just like the one they made.
Upon arrival in Bali, though, they discover how open and agreeable Gede’s large extended family is, and, despite going through with part of their plan to curtail the wedding (George steals the rings that form a vital part of the ceremony), their time spent together on the island makes them start to reconsider their attitude – and not just to Lily’s decision.
Like a path established through a jungle, ‘Ticket to Paradise’ knows exactly where it is going and no one should be surprised by where it ends up. Frustratingly, though, there is one moment where it appears the movie will completely subvert your expectations, undercutting a particularly romantic sequence with a realization between two characters that it’ll never work before going right back to the expected denouement at the very end.
Still, the real joy in ‘Ticket’ is the journey it takes to get there and the people you meet along the way. Roberts and Clooney are, of course, screen dynamite, bringing decades of real-life friendship to the role, one that has only been exploited to full use a few times on screen before.
They’re entertaining whether they’re delivering rat-a-tat insults towards each other or trying to work together for a common goal. Though this bickering twosome could be seen as charmless complainers, the sheer likability of the pair short-circuits that.
And, though it is primarily the George-and-Julia show, the movie smartly doesn’t forget to create supporting characters who matter and recruit talented people to play them.
Dever, who shined in ‘Booksmart’ and more recently in her own rom-com twist with ‘Rosaline’, imbues Lily with sweetness and smarts and makes you believe she is the product of these two slightly damaged people. Plus she can hold her own on the comedy front, even if she doesn’t get as much chance to. She’s ably assisted in that by Lourd, who appears to be channelling her real-life mother (Carrie Fisher) as the party-happy, snark-tastic Wren.
French-born Indonesian actor Bouttier, meanwhile, fits well as the Balinese local who is the object of Lily’s affections. He and his family portray local customs and attitudes without the movie using them for cheap comedic effect. They come across as actual people, not stereotypes (even if the movie was shot on Australia’s Gold Coast, more than 2,000 miles away).
And Georgia’s current beau, commercial pilot Paul (Lucas Bravo from the recent ‘Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris’) also shows up to profess his undying love for her, proposing marriage at a romantic, secluded location that unfortunately also happens to be a local snake habitat.
We’ll leave you to figure out what happens there, but his storyline is perhaps one of the weaker elements of the movie, which, alongside an unexpectedly violent encounter between Clooney and a pod of dolphins represent the movie stretching to add unnecessary comic business to a movie that works better when it is letting the stars talk and not pratfall.
Still, Parker, who has made the likes of ‘Imagine Me & You’, ‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’ along with writing wrote both of ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ movies, is a past master at this genre, bringing a light touch to lightweight material.
The scenery’s beautiful, the time passes by, and before you know it, you’re sucked into the story of squabbling adults realizing that maybe, just maybe their daughter has this whole romance thing figured out to a far greater degree than they can ever claim.
Parker’s latest effort might not challenge the great romantic comedies of our time, but it has enough charisma and laughs to work. It’s fluffy and unchallenging, but anchored by star performances and a solid enough script, it has the goods as a rom-com.
Those after an easy date night or pick-me-up – or are interested whether Roberts and Clooney still have the chemistry after the ‘Ocean’s movies (spoiler alert: they do), will be charmed by this one.
‘Ticket to Paradise’ proves that if you put the right pieces together, any genre can be made to work in today’s movie marketplace. It’s not perfect, by any means and the stakes are so low they could win a limbo competition, but it’s light, frothy, funny, and despite the seemingly unlikeable main duo, carries it off with aplomb.
‘Ticket to Paradise’ receives 3.5 out of 5 stars.