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Is a Clooney-Roberts screen rematch just the ticket?

By SCOTT GARCEAU, The Philippine STAR Published Oct 09, 2022 5:00 am

Can George Clooney and Julia Roberts in a destination wedding rom-com save Hollywood box office? Ticket to Paradise, a throwback to screwball comedies of yore, is betting that it can.

Take Hollywood stars Clooney and Roberts, reunited onscreen after Soderbergh’s Ocean’s movies, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, and Money Monster, and cast them as David and Georgia, a bickering ex-married couple who are thrown together when their daughter decides to toss away her new law degree and get married to a seaweed farmer in Bali. Sounds like something you’d pitch in a studio meeting, right? It is! But it kind of gets by on the seasoned charm of the, er, older couple and the general locale (which isn’t Bali, by the way, but Queensland, Australia).

It’s any fortuneteller’s guess what will actually get people back into cinemas these days, whether it’s revived F-15 vroom-vrooming from Tom Cruise or swooping and swinging from Tom Holland (and all the rest of them) in Spider-Man: No Way Home. It’s a rebuilding process, and Hollywood isn’t always sure what will draw people out after a long period of cave-dwelling. There are worse ideas than a tried-and-true Hollywood royalty pairing. Clooney and Roberts have long shown chemistry and a way with quick quips onscreen. That goes far in Ticket to Paradise, which builds on a wafer-thin premise to show just how far parents will go to mess with their kids’ lives.

George Clooney and Julia Roberts seem to be having a ball in Bali in Ticket to Paradise.

David and Georgia were a happy couple — at first. Twenty-five years back, a dream proposal and a quick marriage led to the quick arrival of daughter Lily (Kaitlyn Dever, from Booksmart). But somehow, the happy couple divorced soon after and can’t stand each other now. She’s a successful high-powered (art dealer?) and he’s a successful (architect? construction boss?), but they quickly get back to sniping and dissing one another on sight, which, let’s face it, isn’t fooling anybody and only proves they still care for each other. But let’s not get too far ahead.

Lily meet-cutes a seaweed farmer named Gede (played by Maxime Bouttier, who is half-Indonesian) while on post-graduation vacay with her best friend Wren (Billie Lourd, also from Booksmart, in a thankless role).

Three months later, and the bickering ’rents are getting email invites to a Balinese wedding! Which they immediately oppose! For some reason! Anyway, David and Georgia can only think back on how their early love and devotion only led to pulling away and heartache, so they are united on one front: stop these crazy kids from getting married.

Trouble in paradise? Kaitlyn Dever and Maxime Bouttier prepare for the nuptials.

Ol Parker (Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again!) directs in a way that never for a second suggests we are in the real world, or actually even in Bali. (Not his fault that Indonesia was under lockdown during production, so they shifted to Australia.) It’s a throwback, clearly, to rom-com fantasies of the past, whether ’40s screwball comedies with their quick repartee or those Adam Sandler comedies with either Drew Barrymore or Jennifer Aniston that generally take place in Hawaii. “Paradise” is actually a great comedic destination for things to go spectacularly wrong. David and Georgia run roughshod over local Balinese customs and set to work sabotaging the wedding. They are surprisingly united and unscrupulous at this. There is a funny dance sequence (gotta have a dance sequence in Paradise) involving beer pong (though using a beer substitute) and dance moves and jams airlifted from the past of Roberts and Clooney. (Another way that Ticket to Paradise recalls rom-coms of the past: a blooper reel at the end, in which it is clear that Roberts and Clooney do have genuine chemistry together. They can’t CGI that stuff.)

Judging by the large (slightly older) crowd of patrons at the recent screening, it might be the ticket to escape that people have been craving.

Some attention is paid to Balinese customs, including the canine-whittling sequence (not for the faint of heart) which is supposed to signal transition to being a fully-formed adult, and the knife-through-woven mat maneuver which is certainly more dramatic than tying cords around one another.

It will be interesting to see if the public responds to this updated screwball setup, drawn in by the tested screen allure of Clooney and Roberts.

Oh, and then there is the arrival of Roberts’ new beau, Frenchman Paul (Lucas Bravo, from Emily in Paris), to throw another monkeywrench (or whatever the French equivalent of the term is) into the proceedings. 

It’s mostly a lark, a light amuse-bouche that you can’t fault for evaporating from your palate and memory as quickly as it enters. These things are not meant to be sliced and diced, or slow-cooked, after all: it’s into the sensory canal, mildly enjoyed, then onto the next thing. The film was made by Working Title Productions, which has a long pedigree of classic ’90s romcoms including Notting Hill, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Bridget Jones’s Diary, and the like. It will be interesting to see if the public responds to this updated screwball setup, drawn in by the tested screen allure of Clooney and Roberts (who are like a pairing of fine wines, in a way). Judging by the large (slightly older) crowd of patrons at the recent screening, it might be the ticket to escape that people have been craving.

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Ticket to Paradise is now showing, distributed by Universal Pictures International.