Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Review: Big Stars Julia Roberts, George Clooney in Harmless, Fluffy 80s Throwback “Ticket to Paradise”


As I’ve already noted, “Ticket to Paradise,” with two big stars, Julia Roberts and George Clooney, has already made $68 million around the world before opening in the US this Friday. This may have been the wisest marketing and sales move of this century.

“Ticket to Paradise” is harmless, fluffy fun. It’s also instantly forgettable except for the travel catalog to the South Pacific, with Australia substituting for Bali. It’s a throwback movie to the 1980s, big studio packages the likes of which we tolerated and are now not nostalgic for.

Here’s the story: Clooney and Roberts were married briefly 25 years ago and produced a daughter who resembles neither of them, played nicely by Kaitlyn Dever. She has a best friend who looks more like she could have been their progeny, played by Billie Lourd aka Carrie Fisher’s real life daughter. Everyone is highly polished, in great shape, looks wonderful. They are very white and well off. The girls have just gone to “college” and are now automatically “lawyers” without going to law school. George and Julia, who loathe each other and cannot be in the same place at the same time, send them to Bali as a graduation gift that must cost around $50,000.

Immediately, Dever’s Lily falls for a local, gets engaged (like, within a week) and announces her impending wedding. George and Julia race across the world to stop the proceedings. No actual reason is given for their displeasure– not the fact that they’ve spent $100,000 on her education and she must start work the following week, not the distance, or any matter of race. They just don’t like the whole thing.

The estranged couple check into what looks like a $5,000 a night resort and bicker with each other until they realize they miss each other, Bali is beautiful, and they have so much money that they never have to call home or go home again. That’s it.

Ol Parker co-wrote and directed this thing. His only major achievement is having written “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” but now you see that director John Madden really made that movie. There isn’t an authentic moment in “Ticket to Paradise,” it’s a totally vacant shell that depends on Clooney and Roberts. They come through winningly. You can see they’re enjoying each other, like Hope and Crosby on the road to Mandalay. They are big stars waiting for a script to be delivered in a beautiful locale. The fact that it never arrives is not their fault.

Some people will love “Ticket to Paradise.” It’s soothing in fact that it reminds us of a time long since gone in American movies. (It could be the sequel to Roberts’ “Eat Pray Love.”) It’s part Hallmark, Lifetime, greeting card. George and Julia could be Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood off to save Gidget from Moondoggie, You get the idea. Nothing wrong with that. “Ticket to Paradise” will have a nice opening weekend, and then find an ancillary life on airplanes and cable. And a lot of people will try going to Bali until they see what it costs.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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