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Pack your bags, we’ll leave tonight – ‘Ticket to Paradise’

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A lot of ink has been spilled bemoaning the death of the rom-com. For years now, we’ve been watching as studios have largely eschewed venturing into the once-well-worn territory, ceding that particular ground to the likes of Netflix and other streaming services.

But while this new breed of rom-com has proven extremely successful – particularly among younger viewers – the reality is that there’s still no substitute for a good old-fashioned star-powered romantic comedy, preferably set in some sort of tropical paradise. It’s a classic formula – grab a couple of A-listers, give them some sort of conflict and set them loose against a beautiful backdrop. Complain about formulaic filmmaking all you want – there’s a reason there’s a formula in the first place.

“Ticket to Paradise” hits all those notes. A-listers? Hell, you’ve got Julia Roberts and George Clooney at the top of the call sheet. That’s a big check. Beautiful backdrop? How’s Bali sound? Another check. Conflict? Divorced couple must come together to put a top to daughter’s ill-advised wedding – check. It’s all here, a throwback to the golden age of the modern rom-com some two or three decades past.

None of this is to anoint this movie an all-timer, by the way. It’s shaggy and a little repetitive, rife with the cliches that tend to mark the genre. There’s not a lot in the way of character development and there are plenty of holes in the narrative. Roberts and Clooney are largely cruising on their charisma and screen presence.

Then again, they’ve got a TON of that. For me, that’s enough.

The Cottons divorced many years years ago, but there’s still plenty of antagonistic ill-will between architect David (Clooney) and art buyer Georgia (Roberts). In truth, the only thing on which they can agree is that their daughter is the best thing to come from their marriage.

Lily Cotton (Kaitlyn Dever) is graduating law school. She’s devoted so much time and energy to her future goals; her parents are very proud, even if they can’t quite get over their own animosity. In celebration, Lily and her best friend Wren (Billie Lourd) head off for a vacation to Bali; upon her return, Lily is set to start work at an extremely prestigious law firm.

But Lily’s plans are thrown into disarray when she meets Gede (Maxime Bouttier), a handsome, smart and charming seaweed farmer. Their meet-cute quickly develops into something more, leading to her making a pair of surprising calls to her parents – she’s going to get married.

David and Georgia are horrified at the idea of their daughter making a similar mistake to the one they did – marrying too young – and so hop on a plane, ostensibly to attend the wedding. However, the two have agreed to put aside their differences and secretly do whatever they can to sabotage the proceedings and keep Lily from the altar.

However, their mission proves to be a bit trickier than they anticipate. And the more time they spend with Gede and his huge and loving family, David and Georgia start to wonder if perhaps what they’re doing is more projecting than protecting. The thick walls of disdain start to show a few cracks as this time in paradise allows the two of them to remember the good times as well as the bad.

In the end, they simply want what’s best for their daughter. The problem is that they’re not at all sure anymore what exactly that might be.

“Ticket to Paradise” is a kind of movie that we used to see quite a lot. This is a breezy romance, a film built on a foundation of high-wattage star power and exotic locales. The story itself doesn’t really matter as much, so long as we get the full charm offensive from our extremely famous leads.

The reason we DON’T see these movies as much anymore is because, to be honest, there aren’t that many movie stars left. There was an article making the rounds recently about how Clooney and Roberts are their era’s Tracy and Hepburn; whether you agree with that sentiment or not, the fact that it’s even a conversation speaks volumes. Theirs is probably the last generation to feature that sort of stardom – the entertainment business has become too fractured for anyone to truly become a matinee idol of the old school.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you that “Ticket to Paradise” lives up to the screwball classics of Tracy and Hepburn. It’s not a Nora Ephron or Nancy Meyers classic, either. But what writer/director Ol Parker has done here is give us a charming, albeit slight love story – one that operates generationally, though the elder couple largely holds the spotlight instead of the younger.

This movie is “gentle smile” funny, not “loud guffaw” funny. Its humor tends toward the situational and leans rather heavily on its stars to carry much of the load. Thankfully, when you’ve got pros like Roberts and Clooney on the job, they tend to be more than up to the task. Their chemistry is undeniable, even if they’re not always working with the most top-shelf material. They connect with one another – and with the audience – with a casual ease that goes down smoothly. It’s vanilla, sure – but we are talking PREMIUM vanilla.

Dever is having a moment; she’s a tremendously talented young actor who doesn’t get quite enough to do here. She’s more reactive than active, which is too bad. Still, for what she’s given, she does well. Bouttier is in much the same boat, his character serving more as a plot device than as a fully-rounded person. Lourd steals a couple of scenes as party-girl Wren, while Lucas Bravo warrants a shout-out as French pilot/love interest Paul.

Ultimately, we’re here to watch movie stars be movie stars. And “Ticket to Paradise” definitely delivers in that respect.

Romantic comedies might not be centered in the cinematic landscape they way they once were, but there’s still a pretty clear audience for them. Whether that audience continues to be streamer-centric remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain: as a lover of rom-coms, I sure am glad that the powers that be sold me this "Ticket to Paradise."

[3.5 out of 5]

Last modified on Monday, 24 October 2022 09:15

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