Over the past 30 years, there are have been few more charming actors than George Clooney and Julia Roberts. Thanks to their movie star looks, high-wattage smiles, and vibrant personalities, both actors have maintained their status as A-listers even when their movies failed to light it up at the box office.
The pair previously co-starred as romantic partners in two Ocean’s films, but it took until they were both well into middle-age before someone based a whole movie around their chemistry. Naturally, that film is Ticket to Paradise, in which David (Clooney) and Georgia (Roberts) are highly antagonistic toward each other, having been long divorced after their five-year marriage only yielded one good thing: Their daughter, Lily (Kaitlyn Dever).
Now they fear Lily is about to make the same mistake they did, as she’s set to marry Gede (Maxime Bouttier), a native of Bali whom she met just one month ago while on vacation celebrating her graduation from law school. They travel to the Indonesian island to show support for Lily, but secretly plan to devise a way to keep the two lovebirds apart.
Directed by Ol Parker and written by Parker and Daniel Pipski, the film is shockingly low on appeal given the stars and the setting. The setup for both David and Georgia’s history and Lily’s shotgun marriage is so minimal it’s almost non-existent, leaving no time for the audience to get truly invested in either relationship. Hate before love is a time-tested rom-com concept, but the enmity between David and Georgia is half-baked at best.
Once the parents arrive in Bali, the focus turns to a series of goofy situations, none of which make any of the main characters more endearing. In fact, Parker seems to have such little confidence in his script that he cuts off many scenes before the jokes they contain have a chance to breathe. The choppy editing only exacerbates the film’s lack of true humor or interesting storytelling.
And because Parker doesn’t understand what actually makes people laugh or fall in love, the rest of the film has little to offer as well. There is zero discussion of what Lily, who had a job as a lawyer lined up, will actually do in Bali besides be Gede’s wife. There is also no examination of the enormous privilege the central family is demonstrating by being able to travel to and stay for an extended period in Bali without a second thought.
Perhaps most frustrating is the film’s scattered focus on the indigenous customs of Bali. On one hand, it’s a plus that they’re included at all, showing at least a sense of propriety for the country where they’ve set the film. But every time Gede and his family are featured, it comes off in an “othering” kind of way, especially since the scenes are almost always in service of the white family’s story.
Both Clooney and Roberts do their level best to rescue the material, but there’s only so much even the most skilled actors can do. They’re certainly up to do anything, including an embarrassing drunken bar sequence, but affecting moments are few and far between. Dever, who just impressed in Rosaline, is almost an empty shell here, given little to do besides worry about her parents or fawn over Gede.
Ticket to Paradise is money well spent by the Bali tourism board, as its many beauties and wonders are showcased in all their glory. But the filmmakers must have been too caught up being tourists, as the actual film never offers anything worth recommending.
Ticket to Paradise opens in theaters on October 21.