Good for “Ticket to Paradise,” keeping its #2 spot at the domestic box office over Halloween weekend despite the challenge of so-called “scary” movies. It really speaks to how poorly the horror slate was handled this year when every Halloween-friendly release loses out to not only the second weekend of the undeniable blockbuster “Black Adam,” but the second weekend of this innocuous romantic comedy as well. Unfortunately, “Ticket to Paradise” isn’t much better at being a rom-com than those other movies are at being horror.
George Clooney and Julia Roberts respectively star as David and Georgia Cotton, the divorced parents of Lily (Kaitlyn Dever). Lily celebrates graduating from law school with a trip to Bali, where she falls in love with local seaweed farmer Gede (Maxime Bouttier). Barely a month later, Lily has decided to marry Gede and move to Bali permanently, effectively ending her legal career. David and Georgia fly to Bali, ostensibly for the wedding, but really to try to break Lily and Gede up. They both made a huge mistake rushing into marriage when they were younger, and they don’t want to see Lily fall into the same trap. In fact, their own marriage was such a disaster (aside from producing Lily) that they now hate each other and can’t stand to be around one another. This being a comedy, various circumstances will force them to be around each other for nearly the entire runtime.
David/Georgia adventures include a turbulent plane ride with Georgia’s dopey pilot boyfriend Paul (Lucas Bravo), having hotel rooms right across from one another, a caper to steal Lily and Gede’s wedding rings, swimming with malicious dolphins, helping with a seaweed harvest, a night of beer pong, going back and forth on their feelings toward the wedding, and of course gradual hints that they might be right for each other after all. And they do it all while bickering with perfect chemistry. Not “perfect” as in actually funny, but in the sense that Clooney and Roberts are clearly professional actors who know how to play off their scene partners. No couple in the real world is this much in lockstep (a word David loves) even if they’re partners for life, and we’re supposed to believe these two detest one another?
So many tired rom-com cliches are present: the wisecracking best friend (Billie Lourd) with no real purpose in the story, a chatty third wheel (Genevieve Lemon) on the plane, baffling-to-David language and cultural barriers, a drunken spending-the-night mixup, an embarrassing injury to Paul that makes him look less desirable, women successfully building a fire while the men fail at hunting, things going wrong in the leadup to the wedding, a potential deal-breaker at the wedding itself, and so on. I’ve been hearing people say that this modest hit has “revived” the romantic comedy, and while that isn’t quite true (“Licorice Pizza”), it has revived the kind of romantic comedy that people cite as an example of why they don’t like romantic comedies.
I’ll say this for “Ticket to Paradise,” it makes Bali look really nice. I’m sure this movie will be a great boon to the island’s tourism industry. No doubt the location shoot endeared Clooney and Roberts to this project, because it sure wasn’t a sharp, challenging script. If you’re the kind of person that considers beautiful scenery to be a good reason to see a movie, this is probably a good choice for you. But if you need more than a gorgeous island and A-listers coasting on their effortless charm, get a Ticket to something else.
“Ticket to Paradise” is rated PG-13 for some strong language and brief suggestive material. Its running time is 104 minutes.
Robert R. Garver is a graduate of the Cinema Studies program at New York University. His weekly movie reviews have been published since 2006.