"Ticket to Paradise" has Clooney and Roberts in Bali, and that's just enough


Ticket to Paradise (2022)

We know a blatant movie-star vehicle when we see one — a old-fashioned Hollywood motion picture that coasts along on the charm and mere presence of the smiling A-listers on the poster. A rare theatrical romantic comedy, “Ticket to Paradise” is just the ticket if you enjoy being in the company of two likable, bankable pros like George Clooney and Julia Roberts. These two are all the star wattage one film needs, and yet, there’s even a very solid supporting cast. Director Ol Parker isn’t far off from his “Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again,” albeit without a single ABBA song, where it feels like an on-location paradise vacation for the starry cast and crew. All of that will either be enough or not, but when the actors make this featherweight material better than it should be, it’s hard to ask for much more.

Clooney and Roberts play David and Georgia Cotton, a divorced couple who can’t even stand being in the same room together after twenty years. The one good thing that came out of their five-year marriage is their daughter, Lily (Kaitlyn Dever), who’s graduating from college. Before she starts her life as a lawyer, Lily plans a trip to Bali with her best friend, Wren, played by Billie Lourd (2019's "Booksmart"). (Lourd is doing the best she can with a poorly written character whose two traits are making snarky/sad comments about having no close family and drinking a lot.) Lily ends up meeting local Gede (Maxine Bouttier), a dreamy seaweed farmer who could be the one. Sure enough, Lily invites her parents to the island for her and Gede’s wedding. Coming together, David and Georgia decide to conspire to sabotage the nuptials before Lily makes a hasty decision and the same mistake they made. We know where this is all headed, as ex-spouses are repeatedly forced to be amicable, sit together, and have adjoining hotel rooms, but it’s kind of delightful anyway. 

For all of “Ticket of Paradise,” George Clooney and Julia Roberts prop up director Parker and co-writer Daniel Pipski’s script, which probably read something like this: “INT. BALI HOTEL ROOM - DAY. Julia Roberts lights up the room with her charisma.” Their character names are David and Georgia, but it just really feels like old friends, kind of like Clooney and Roberts, bickering and one-upping each other in amusing, lightly prickly barbs. Even when the film introduces them both in their respective lives, David and Georgia can’t stop talking about their historically bad relationship. We do get a broad idea of why their marriage didn’t last, as David has a late barside heart-to-heart about their lake house that burned down, even if their motivations in stopping Lily and Gede’s engagement still remain sketchy at best to drive the plot. The naturally great Kaitlyn Dever and Maxine Bouttier are cute and sweet together, but their relationship is much less interesting than Gede’s warm, hospitable family. What it all comes down to is two reliable movie stars effortlessly having a good time together and apart. It's especially fun to watch Clooney and Roberts let loose in a game of beer pong set to '90s hip-hop, and Roberts also proves she has little on-screen vanity and can laugh at herself when a Balinese man compliments her for looking like “a very attractive horse.” 

It’s only when a few forced situational yuks have to come in and drag down any intelligence the script was headed toward. Director Ol Parker isn’t so skilled in screwball setups and punchlines that one wonders why we even needed Clooney to get mildly injured by a dolphin when the scene is over and resolved so quickly. Much better is the charmingly daft performance by Lucas Bravo (Netflix’s “Emily in Paris”) as Georgia’s touchy-feely French pilot boyfriend Paul. “Ticket to Paradise” doesn’t quite have what it takes to be a sparkling affair to remember or the smartest grown-up fare, but it’s a fine escape with Roberts’ infectious smile and cackle, Clooney’s silver-foxiness, and their easy, relaxed package-deal chemistry. There’s always a place for a comfy Lazy Sunday movie, and that’s the niche this perfectly pleasant, happy-go-lucky, low-stakes trifle occupies.

Grade: C +

Universal Pictures released “Ticket to Paradise” (104 min.) on October 21, 2022.