Must a film be *great*? Is it not enough to feature two movie stars in a genre on life support in a full theater?
“Ticket to Paradise” stars George Clooney and Julia Roberts as a divorced couple who team up to convince their young daughter (Kaitlyn Dever) to call off her sudden engagement in Bali. Billie Lourd, Maxime Bouttier, and Lucas Bravo also star while Ol Parker directs.
For months, my friend and I have “joked” about how excited we were for “Ticket to Paradise” because in an age of superhero films and streaming services, this is a romantic comedy with two of the biggest-named actors of the last 30 years going to theaters. Forget “Top Gun: Maverick,” this was going to be the movie to save the medium. And as it turns out, the film is everything you could hope it to be, from the effortless chemistry of its leads to the completely predictable plot; “Ticket to Paradise” feels ripped right of 2003 and I am all here for it.
I’m a George Clooney fan, I think he can deliver genuinely great performances when he wants (“Up in the Air” being his crowning achievement) but also be funny (“Hail, Caesar!”) and help produce some great films to boot (“Argo”). Here, he and Julia Roberts aren’t doing any heavy lifting or trying to get their second acting Oscars but just having fun and asking the audience to come along for the ride. You buy them as a bickering ex couple without making them hard to root for, and all it really does is make you long for the good ole days where celebrities teamed up in these kinds of films (“How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days,” “You’ve Got Mail,” “When Harry Met Sally”).
The film looks great, set in Bali and shot in Queensland, Australia. From lush forests to the deep blue sea, yes it was in-part just an excuse for the cast to get paid to take a tropical vacation. But unlike an Adam Sandler joint, where he and his SNL buddies get a $100 million budget to hang out on a lake, the cinematography by Ole Bratt Birkeland makes the setting feel like a character itself, and there are several awe-inspiring shots and set pieces.
The film is not laugh-out-loud funny, but there are a handful of solid chuckles sprinkled throughout. Kaitlyn Dever and Billie Lourd (who last teamed up in “Booksmart”) have entertaining deadpan and party girl energy, respectively, and Clooney’s charm does wonders for even the most basic of lines. There are some pacing issues (especially leading up the film’s climax), predictability, and more faux-endings than “Return of the King,” but you don’t come to a film like this expecting a Thelma Schoonmaker-Martin Scorsese level execution in those departments.
“Ticket to Paradise” is one of those movies that you watch the trailer and say “that looks like simple fun” then you walk out saying “that was simple fun.” My mostly-full theater seemed to really enjoy themselves, with the clump of young women to my left howling a few times and a group of seniors booking an entire row as if this was their “Avengers” moment. If you want to be technical, it’s a “fine 5.” But if you factor in that this is a formerly beloved genre, playing in theaters, with big name actors attached, then it’s “solid 7.” As an objective critic I’ll meet those scores in the middle and go 6, but as I’ve said before, what is a score than simply a subjective summary of a detailed review you just read?
Critics Rating: 6/10