TICKET TO PARADISE | ©2022 Universal Pictures

TICKET TO PARADISE | ©2022 Universal Pictures

Rating: PG-13
Stars: George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Kaitlyn Dever, Maxime Bouttier, Billie Lourd, Lucas Bravo, Dorian Djoudi, Ilma Nurfauziah, Cintya Dharmayanti
Writers: Ol Parker and Daniel Pipski
Director: Ol Parker
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Release Date: October 21, 2022

TICKET TO PARADISE gives us heavenly locations in both Bali (where most of the story takes place) and Queensland, Australia (where none of the story takes place, but some of the film was shot).

It also gives us hardworking movie stars in both George Clooney and Julia Roberts, who play, respectively, David and Georgia, the long-divorced parents of Lily (Kaitlyn Dever). Lily has just graduated law school and has a job waiting for her at a prestigious Chicago firm when she returns from her three-month-long vacation in Bali with best friend Wren (Billie Lourd).

Except that Lily and handsome young Balinese seaweed farmer Gede (Maxime Bouttier) fall in love with each other. Lily also falls in love with the island and the culture. So, about six weeks after meeting, Lily and Gede decide to get married. They will, of course, remain in Bali.

Georgia and David are predictably horrified. Although they haven’t agreed on much of anything except their love for Lily since the divorce, the two are united in their desire to “save” their daughter from what she wants for herself. So, David and Georgia arrive in Bali, supposedly to attend the wedding and offer their support, but actually plotting to prevent the nuptials by any means necessary.

This is a little mean-spirited from the get-go, which could have been darkly funny if TICKET TO PARADISE leaned into it. However, the screenplay by Ol Parker, who directed, and Daniel Pipski, seems to want us to see David and Georgia as old-fashioned screwball comedy types. But neither character has the specificity needed to make this work.

Inasmuch as David does have distinctive traits, granted, we don’t see him in relation to too many women. Still, the way he talks over Georgia, assumes he knows what’s best for his daughter, and is rude to an older woman who’s seated next to him on the plane don’t make us think highly of him.

As to Georgia, despite Roberts’s best efforts, there just isn’t much to her. We know she does something with art (is she a dealer, a gallery curator, or something else?), and supposedly cares about her work. We also know she’s involved with a younger man, airline pilot Paul (Lucas Bravo), who keeps telling Georgia how kind she is. We don’t observe her being unkind, but we pretty much have to take Paul’s word for it.

The main thing we see David and Georgia do is complain about each other, directly and behind each other’s backs. Their gripes aren’t nearly enough to elicit laughs (it may be time to call a moratorium on screen jokes about snoring).

Both Roberts and Clooney seem most genuine when their characters are interacting lovingly with their daughter. With each other, the two project the vibe of old friends, which is appropriate more at some times than others. At no time do we feel romantic chemistry, nor are we particularly rooting for any.

Dever, on the other hand, sells Lily’s love story with her heart and soul. When Gede calls her a “poem of a person,” we understand what he’s talking about. Bouttier is convincing as a very decent young man who is at first unsettled when having to confront duplicity. Lourd is enjoyable as Lily’s hard-partying pal, Bravo brings sweetness to Georgia’s suitor, and Dorian Djoudi provides some good moments as Gede’s amiable father.

TICKET TO PARADISE keeps us semi-engaged with Dever’s passion and with the truly splendid landscapes. Watching this movie isn’t the same as going to Bali, of course, but a theater ticket is considerably cheaper than an airline ticket. Also, if you’re not crazy about your traveling companions here, you can ditch them after only two hours, as opposed to being stuck for days or weeks on a real vacation.

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