By Lynn Venhaus
With their mega-watt star power and effortless charm, George Clooney and Julia Roberts are just so darn cute together that they make the high-concept rom-com “Ticket to Paradise” go down as easy as a fruity tropical drink while watching an island sunset.
“Ticket to Paradise” follows the formula of many personality-driven light-hearted escapes set in an exotic locale and depend on thorny romantic complications with an easy-going cast having fun with each other.
As a bitterly divorced couple, they team up and travel to Bali to stop their only daughter (Kaitlyn Devers) from making the same mistake they think they made 25 years ago.
In their fifth film together, Clooney and Roberts appear to be having a ball, even while pretending they hate each other’s guts. That fine line between love and hate, you know. They were college sweethearts and married for five years. Their house burnt down, and their relationship flamed out.
But they had a daughter, Lily, whom they dote on, and are forced to be together for those kind of family rituals like graduations and weddings. The ever-reliable Kaitlyn Dever plays recent law school graduate Lily, who is on a long holiday with her roommate and best friend Wren in Bali before embarking on real-world careers.
Party girl Wren is given some oomph by Billie Lourd, the late Carrie Fisher’s daughter. She’s mainly around to be supportive of her buddy, but it would have been nice for her to have a storyline too. She and Dever were both in “Booksmart,” and work well together here.
Roberts’ character, Georgia, an art gallery owner, is engaged to a handsome younger pilot, endearingly played by French actor Lucas Bravo (a delight in “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” this past summer and on “Emily in Paris.”) He’s a good sport, even as the butt of some jokes.
The lovestruck Lily throws everything into chaos when she breaks the news that she is engaged to an Indonesian seaweed farmer, Gede (Maxime Bouttier), a sweet and sincere islander she fell head over heels for – and is ready to build a life faraway from what she’s known. They make a cute, believable couple.
Bali is a stunning location with gorgeous sunsets, warm hospitality and a relaxed way of life. What’s not to love?
The parents are determined to sabotage the wedding, and unite to carry it out, but as expected, things aren’t going according to plan in the story by Ol Parker and script co-writer Daniel Pipski.
The parents have time for reflection and look back at their tattered relationship, which the two Oscar winners carry out well.
It seems like a predictable patchwork of other rom-coms – a dash of “Crazy Rich Asians,” a touch of “Mamma Mia!”, a sprinkle of “Gidget Goes Hawaiian,” and a smidge of “My Best Friend’s Wedding, as well as a litany of Hallmark movies involving matrimony, but that doesn’t make it less palatable.
When you sign on for a romantic comedy, you know what’s ahead. This is a Mom movie – one you can take your mother too and not worry about salacious content. If it appeals to a certain demographic, so be it.
The pleasures here are enjoying the shimmering panoramic vistas in the south Pacific and two charismatic movie stars who are adorable when lighting up the screen. Their chemistry is so smooth that you’d watch them just sitting and talking to each other (at least I would).
The last movie they made, “Money Monster,” was a middling crime drama-thriller in 2016. Clooney was a financial TV host and Roberts played his producer who are in an extreme situation when an irate investor takes over the studio.
But their casting as Danny and Tess Ocean in the “Ocean’s” movies – 11, 12 and 13 — caught fire in that entertaining caper franchise. They first appeared in “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind,” which Clooney directed in 2002, an adaptation of game show impresario Chuck Barris’ cult memoir about being a CIA hitman.
Although capable of crafting fine characters in their legendary careers, they are well-suited for romantic comedies. After all, that’s where Roberts broke through (“Pretty Woman”) and had considerable box office power (“Notting Hill,” “My Best Friend’s Wedding, “Runaway Bride,” among them.) They have their dramatic cred – and Oscars to prove it, too.
The outtakes shown during the end credits seem unnecessary and rather silly, but other than that, it’s not a waste o’ time.
Ol Parker, best known for “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” in 2018 and “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” in 2011, directed “Ticket to Paradise” with a light touch, careful to not make the proceedings too slapstick-y (but not above some goofy moments, like a dolphin attack and a snake bite).
He knows and respects his audience, and so do the lovable movie stars. If you are looking for a pleasant trifle to wile away a couple hours, “Ticket to Paradise” will amuse. It isn’t destined to become a classic but will stay in fans’ rotations.
“Ticket to Paradise” is a 2022 romantic comedy directed by Ol Parker and starring George Clooney, Julia Roberts and Kaitlyn Dever. Rated PG-13 for some strong language and brief suggestive material, it runs 1 hour, 44 minutes. Opens in theatres on Oct. 21. Lynn’s Grade: B-.
Lynn Venhaus has had a continuous byline in St. Louis metro region publications since 1978. She is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, currently reviews films for Webster-Kirkwood Times and KTRS Radio, covers entertainment for PopLifeSTL.com and co-hosts podcast PopLifeSTL.com…Presents, and writes features and news for Belleville News-Democrat and contributes to other publications. She is a member of CCA, AWFJ and St. Louis Film Critics Association. She is a founding member of the St. Louis Theater Circle.