Synopsis: A divorced couple travels to Bali to stop their daughter from making the same mistake they think they made 25 years ago.
Stars: George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Kaitlyn Dever, Billie Lourd, Maxime Bouttier, Lucas Bravo
Director: Ol Parker
Running Length: 104 minutes
TMMM Score: (8/10)
Review: School may have started in early September, but Oscar winners George Clooney and Julia Roberts are about to give audiences of all ages a massive chemistry lesson when Ticket to Paradise opens in theaters this October. It’s as easy as that. The two movie stars (if ever there was a definitive epitome of one, they would share the title) are massively successful in their own right and longtime friends, having starred in two popular Oceans 11 films together. Both are in constant demand to star in high-profile projects, yet here they are in a commercial vehicle that isn’t a stretch for either and plays directly to their strengths.
While this rom-com may appear to be a warmed-over retread of a familiar formula, don’t let Ticket to Paradise fool you. There’s more going on in director Ol Parker’s sunny Bali-set comedy than you’d expect. Heck, I thought I knew each beat the movie would take after a preview that appears to give away nearly everything that happened. Admittedly, this isn’t Shakespeare, but Parker and co-screenwriter Daniel Pipski have done their homework and know what made these breezy comedies blockbusters back in the day. Put your charming stars front and center, give them material to work with that isn’t beneath their talent, and then let the professionals do their job.
Long divorced, architect David Cotton (Clooney, The Monuments Men) and his ex Georgia (Roberts, Ben is Back) can only agree on one positive that emerged from their brief union: their daughter, Lily (Kaitlyn Dever, Rosaline). When the film opens, Lily is negotiating a truce between her oft-bickering parents over their seating at her upcoming graduation. Though she promises they’ll be sitting far apart, when the day arrives, they’re shoulder to shoulder, vying to be seen as the most supportive parent to their child. As they send Lily off to Bali with friend Wren (Billie Lourd, Booksmart) for a mini-vacation before she begins her career in law, David and Georgia know this is the last time they’ll have to see one another in quite some time.
A month later, Lily has met and fallen in love with Balinese seaweed farmer Gede (Maxime Bouttier) and informs her parents that plans have changed for the career for which they’d all planned. Furthermore, she intends to marry Gede within a week. United in their belief Lily is making the wrong choice, David and Georgia travel to Bali under the guise of supporting their daughter when they’ve truly come to work to sabotage the wedding. Throughout the weeklong ceremonies leading up to the marriage, the entire group will learn about the bonds of family, forgiveness, embracing change, and jumping in feet first to love’s most excellent adventure.
Ticket to Paradise is the kind of film they made back in the day before you could reserve your ticket online or over the phone. When you had to wait in line at the box office where maybe you got almost to the front when a voice over the loudspeaker announced your showing was sold out, but you could buy a ticket for the next one. The tension! Those were the days. It’s refreshingly uncomplicated in a beautiful sort of way. It wouldn’t be long before romantic comedies had to have an “edge” to them. That could be a sinister evil new boy/girlfriend, a scheming inlaw/boss that threatens to screw up the Big Event more than our leads could, or added raunch to goose the demand for a new type of comedy.
You also have to appreciate the way Parker and Pipski write the ex-Cottons. If the two bicker too bitterly, the audience will turn against them because they are insufferable; take away their bite, and you lose the comedy. The Clooney/Roberts pairing, coupled with some easy-handed direction from Parker, keeps them likable and hard to hold any grudges against. Parker also includes scenes between Gede and his parents, showing viewers both sides of parental relationships.
Whether it’s Clooney’s crinkly-eyed smile or Roberts’s mega-watt grin followed by that infectious loud whoop of a laugh, both actors trot out their secret weapons whenever the mood suits them. And it suits us just fine, too. You hardly ever want to be apart from this pairing, and when you do, the film shifts into a lower gear to no one else’s fault. That means Lourd and Lucas Bravo (Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris), as Georgia’s pilot boyfriend, feel underdeveloped as characters and not the mere sounding boards they wind up hanging around as.
To discredit the effort put in here, even if the finale writes itself from the start, is not to recognize the role of the movie star in Hollywood. Some movies are based on existing properties studios develop and hope to become a franchise they can repeat ad nauseam via a pre-programmed formula. Then there are the movies like Ticket to Paradise, original works that are constructed around the personalities and working relationships of its two most profitable (and likable) stars. I’d take more Tickets to Paradise than any five hoped-for franchise starters any day.