Writer/director Ol Parker certainly knows his way around a breezy comedy with heart. Here at Moviepie, we’ve been big fans of his work from Imagine Me & You, to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, to (yes, we know it’s cheesy but we love it) Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. But there is a feeling in Ticket to Paradise that the mere presence of mega-stars George Clooney and Julia Roberts in a rom-com will automatically result in a supernova of romantic comedy gold. Unfortunately, they are given little to work with, leaving a dud of a final product.
All the ingredients are there: You’ve got Julia Roberts’ dazzling white smile. You’ve got George Clooney’s crinkly-eyed grin. You’ve got the stupendously beautiful setting of Bali, Indonesia (or rather, Australia, a very nice substitute). You even have (according to the extras) cultural sensitivity in the representation of the Balinese culture. But the script is so lazy and by-the-numbers, that any sort of crisp, fresh, actually funny comedy is missing, and you can map out the entire plot from the opening credits.
Clooney and Roberts play David and Georgia Cotton–a long-divorced couple that find themselves flying to the tropical paradise of Bali to “save” their adult daughter from marrying a local boy on a whim, rather than continuing her trajectory of starting her career as a lawyer. Lily (Kaitlyn Dever) has been swept into the Indonesian arms of sweet, dimpled Gede (Maxime Bouttier) a local seaweed fisherman. Lily’s drunky-pants BFF Wren (Billie Lourd) fully supports the match, probably just wishing she got there first. But David and Georgia see a mirror of their own big mistake: marrying too young, too spontaneously. So David and Georgia make a pact to ensure that the kids’ wedding does NOT happen, and proceed to interrupt it in every wincingly immature way possible.
We all know that Julia and George have a natural rapport, and their real-life friendship emanates in their natural chemistry together. All the other characters are too earnest and dull to be remotely interesting, so in theory George and Julia’s mere presence should pull this movie along. But the stars are saddled with a pedestrian script with flat jokes and an eye-rolling predictability. The only time they seem relaxed enough to let loose is during the requisite “let your hair down and get drunk” scene, that has the 50-somethings inebriated on the local equivalent of beer pong, and wildly dancing to 90s hits. Other than that, the only spark in the movie is surprisingly the first-time actor Agung Pindha, who plays Gede’s father. Hired to be the cultural consultant for the film, Pindha also ended up in his acting debut, and is a way more interesting and charming presence than anyone else in the film.
I won’t give any spoilers here, because I think target viewers who want to watch Ticket to Paradise will be watching this movie anyway. Fans of this genre know exactly what kind of movie this will be and they know exactly how this movie will end. Don’t worry, if you are one of those folks, you’ll probably enjoy Ticket to Paradise. Other casual viewers will most likely find it to be cringey and dull, and best used as muted background tropical wallpaper on your screen.