There will probably come a time when I really start to like Ticket to Paradise. It’s just not right now. The potential for it to grow on me is there, in the unquestionable chemistry between stars George Clooney and Julia Roberts, in their first silly romantic-comedy together. The situation these two megastars find them selves in is breezy, exotic, ridiculous, and yes, comforting. That it’s not very funny in the first viewing could someday be cured as background noise while doing household chores.
Let’s be honest; it doesn’t really matter what Ticket to Paradise is about. It follows ex-married couple turned bickering foes Georgia (Roberts) and David (Clooney). Following their daughter Lily’s (Kaitlyn Dever) graduation from college, they accompany the girl to the airport for a trip to Bali, a palette cleanser before she heads to law school. But while Lily is there she meets Gede (Maxime Bouttier), a local seaweed farmer who quickly wins her heart. A month later, they’re planning to be married, and mom and dad must put aside their differences to make sure their little girl doesn’t make the mistake of her life.
None of that really matters. Ticket to Paradise exists because we love Clooney and Roberts together. In particular, we like to watch them fight, then fall in love, fight some more, and fall in love all over again. That’s what this comedy from The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Mamma Mia 2‘s Ol Parker exists to give us. If you liked the way they vibed in Ocean’s 11 and even Money Monster, you’ll probably dig them here, too. Clooney and Roberts still have that classic movie star presence, with obvious familiarity working with one another. You can feel them leveling up in scenes when they are alone together. It’s like they know the weight is on them to deliver, and they make this film as enjoyable as they possibly can with very little help.
The problem is there isn’t much else to grapple with. There are some broad swings at humor but actual laughs are elusive. It’s a rough look having well-to-do white folks looking down on the uncultured Indonesian folks, whose language Georgia and David don’t understand and make little attempt to. Is it supposed to be funny when David looks like a blank idiot when Gede’s father tries to speak with him? And poor Billie Lourd has nothing to do but carry around a wad of condoms as Lily’s apparently promiscuous best friend Wren. Georgia has a much younger boyfriend (Lucas Bravo), an airline pilot whose thing is that he’s full of surprises. She hates surprises. It’s an ongoing gag that is never on but keeps on going. At least he gets bit by a snake, though? I think that was meant to be funny, too.
Sadly, Dever gets the short end of the stick, as well. A real comedic talent as we’ve seen in such films as Booksmart and the recent Rosaline, Dever’s Lily is bland in the way pretty much everyone in Ticket to Paradise is. It’s especially egregious with Lily because the entire plot is based around Georgia and David’s need to recognize her as an adult with agency of her own. But she rarely gets the opportunity to prove it and when she does it’s unconvincing.
Clooney and Roberts carry Ticket to Paradise as far as they possibly can. There’s nothing wrong with a low-stakes rom-com every now and then, but it’s also clear that stars of their magnitude deserve to be reunited for much better projects than this.
Ticket to Paradise opens in theaters on October 21st.