Review: Roberts, Clooney reunite in ‘Ticket to Paradise’

It’s often said that the movies that were fun will never be great. Well, George Clooney and Julia Roberts look like they had a great time doing the ‘Ticket to Paradise’ Bali set.

The film, directed and co-written by Ol Parker (“Mama Mia! Here We Go Again”), is not the first film that Roberts and Clooney have appeared in together. But it takes a moment to realize that their screentime together was mostly limited to a few scenes in the Ocean’s Eleven movies and Jodie Foster’s not-so-memorable 2016 thriller Money Monster.

Given their friendship and natural rapport, one can imagine there must have been half a dozen rom-coms in their past. Instead, it’s a reminder that Clooney, who’s so often compared to Cary Grant when delving into comedy, mostly sticks to an archer, Coen brothers register. And unlike Grant – whose on-screen romances have included brilliant figures like Irene Dunne, Katharine Hepburn and Rosalind Russell – Clooney has rarely found a perfect match. Vera Farmiga in “Up in the Air” and Meryl Streep in “Fantastic Mr. Fox” deserve a mention. But really, Clooney’s best chemistry was back in 1998’s ‘Out of Sight’ with Jennifer Lopez — a love that blossomed in the darkened trunk of a car.

Ticket to Paradise, which opens in theaters on Thursday, is rather dated: a film that is strictly – and unapologetically – built on the charisma of its two stars.

Roberts and Clooney play Georgia and David Cotton, a bitterly divorced couple whose daughter Lily (Kaitlyn Dever) is fresh out of law school. Just before taking on a challenging job at a top company, Lily and her best friend Wren (Billie Lourd) head to Bali. (This is where Australia doubles for the Indonesian island.) Lily falls instantly in love with a local seaweed farmer named Gede (Maxime Bouttier), and they decide to wed within days.

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For Georgia and David, such a wedding is four-alarm fire. They immediately rush off to sabotage it, a plan that brings many of their own unresolved divorce issues to light. “Nothing lasts forever,” David hisses at his future son-in-law. It’s an unholy alliance. They fight constantly, so much so that it’s clear their feelings are still strong for each other. I know this will probably come as a shock. Maybe sit down before you read that next sentence. But yes, the events of Ticket to Paradise will bring them closer again. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Okay, Parker’s film, written by him and Daniel Pipski, isn’t exactly out to reinvent the wheel. Predictability is part of Ticket to Paradise’s appeal, and it’s fair to say it doesn’t succeed. The familiar beats are played with sincerity. A flinching late-night dance floor sequence to House of Pain’s “Jump Around” comes like a prescribed ritual.

There are other traditions that fill “Ticket to Paradise” as the Cottons wrestle with and inevitably succumb to Balinese culture. But none so much as the customs of rom-com. To me, like many recent entries in this genre, Ticket to Paradise could have benefited greatly from having a funny person write the script. There’s not nearly as much laughter here as one might expect, as Ticket to Paradise is mostly content to bask in its starlight like a dozing beach-goer. Dever, hysterical in Booksmart, is also largely wasted in a boring role.

Ticket to Paradise is considered a footnote to the many superior rom-coms Roberts has acted in before. And if I wanted to see Clooney in a tropical setting, I would choose Alexander Payne’s enchanting The Descendants. Or for Clooney in the divorce plot, the “Intolerable Cruelty” of the Coens with Catherine Zeta-Jones, the choice would be.

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But if you just want to see Roberts and Clooney together, “Ticket to Paradise” sweeps that not-very-high bar with just enough charm. And, lest anyone doubt, the credits glitches – which feel about as scripted as those that follow “Toy Story 2.” – proving that everyone who made “Ticket to Paradise” actually had a very good time.

Ticket to Paradise, a Universal release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for strong language and brief suggestive material. Running time: 104 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.

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Follow AP film writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP

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