What to Watch Verdict
A non-vintage but sparkling rom-com vehicle for two of Hollywood’s finest.
Roberts’ and Clooney’s comedic chemistry
Frothy and funny
An attractive escape
Suddenly runs out of steam
Plodding and predictable ending
Those out-takes in the credits
It’s eight years since we last saw ultimate A listers, George Clooney and Julia Roberts, sharing the screen. She was the resourceful TV producer, he was the media savvy financial expert and both were embroiled in the hostage situation of Money Monster. Hardly a rom-com. But in Ticket To Paradise, they’re back together under the Bali sunshine to remind us of their natural flair for comedy — and their undoubted chemistry.
David (Clooney) and Georgia (Roberts) divorced acrimoniously some years ago and now lead separate lives to avoid the inevitable arguments. But they're reluctantly brought back together when their daughter Lily (Kaitlyn Dever) announces she’s marrying Bede (Maxime Bouttier), a Bali local who she has only just met on holiday. And they're tying the knot in a few days' time. For once, her estranged parents agree: the wedding mustn’t go ahead and they team up to try to sabotage the event and save their daughter from what they believe is disaster.
And you know where this going, don’t you? You only have to get to the other side of the opening credits to see the obvious setup. Yes, it’s contrived, but remember this is a rom-com and the whole idea is to have fun with the com while you're getting to the rom. Despite their best efforts, the seemingly mismatched parents can’t avoid each other — they sit next to each other at Lily’s graduation, have adjacent seats on the plane to Bali, are booked into rooms 221 and 222 at the hotel — and the bickering starts as soon as they lay eyes on each other.
You understand why Lily cringes with embarrassment, but watching two of the biggest names in Hollywood sink their teeth into the barbed dialogue is undeniably fun and provides some of the best moments in the film. Their respective comedy track records — Roberts in Notting Hill and Pretty Woman, Clooney in Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou? and Hail, Caesar! – makes them tailor-made for their roles. And Clooney’s dad-dancing moves are an unexpected bonus.
It’s also a decidedly old-fashioned film at heart. While not a vintage rom-com, it sees itself as a 2020’s version — dare we say a return ticket? — of classic pairings like Tracy and Hepburn in Adam’s Rib and Pat and Mike, or Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday, all stories about sparring couples. In truth, it doesn’t live up to them, but that nostalgic flavor is appealing. The sad thing is that it overcooks the idea, indulging in that frequently awkward cliché of peppering the closing credits with out-takes. From what we’re shown, they were more fun for the cast and crew involved than for the audience watching them.
The combination of star-power, crisp dialogue and the vibrant colour and sunsets of Bali — even the pouring rain looks enchanting — all come together to deliver the fun and the froth we’re looking for. Then it runs out of steam with a jolt. By the time the final section kicks in, the banter has faded away to reveal there’s little left underneath. The laughter and smiles have gone the same way and, while director Ol Parker desperately tries to keep things going with a feeble sub-plot about Roberts’ adoring boyfriend Paul (Lucas Bravo), the tone is decidedly flat. All that remains is a plod towards the inevitable conclusion. What was once sparkling and entertaining is now borderline tedious.
Despite its all-too-obvious failings, the charm of watching two Oscar winners exercising their comedy chops with such relish is hard to resist. So is the beauty of the scenery and we can happily indulge the inevitable conventions — culture clashes, local traditions and repeated reminders about the importance of right time, right place and right circumstances when it comes to marriage — as well as the slim underlying theme of second chances.
But timing is everything in Ticket To Paradise. Roberts and Clooney share the comic variety, yet the film itself has a sense of timing that nobody could have predicted when it was made. It arrives in cinemas exactly when we need entertainment, color, laughter and escape and, it responds to that need by welcoming audiences with open arms. The story may be standard, but the timing of its arrival is first class.
Ticket To Paradise is released in UK cinemas on Tuesday, 20 September and on October 20 in US (see our new movies in 2022 guide for more films to enjoy).
Freda can't remember a time when she didn't love films, so it's no surprise that her natural habitat is a darkened room in front of a big screen. She started writing about all things movies about eight years ago and, as well as being a Rotten Tomatoes approved critic, is a regular voice on local radio on her favorite subject.
While she finds time to watch TV as well — her tastes range from Bake Off to Ozark — films always come first. Favourite film? The Third Man. Top ten? That's a big and complicated question .....!