The minimum expectations for a romantic comedy are as follows: to be romantic and comedic.
But “Ticket to Paradise,” starring power duo Julia Roberts and George Clooney, doesn’t meet those basic criteria for a jolly time. Instead, the flimsy film settles for being attractive and deeply uncomfortable.
Running time: 104 minutes. Rated PG-13 (some strong language and brief suggestive material). In theaters Oct. 21.
In the cringey first 20 minutes of the movie, for example, a father named David (Clooney) advises his daughter’s Balinese fiancé not to have kids with her because the bride’s ambitions will force her to abandon her family. Ba-dum-ching!
Then, in the next scene, her mother, Georgia (Roberts), pickpockets the wedding rings from the ring bearer to sabotage the ceremony and throws them in her purse. Hilarious!
These cruel schemers, who mock Balinese culture and traditions the entire movie, are supposed to be a nostalgic throwback to beloved 1990s rom-coms. And seeing Dr. Ross and Erin Brockovich together does indeed summon those warm and fuzzy memories of Madonna’s “Ray of Light” and prepping for Y2K. That’s the extent of our enjoyment, though. The rest of this tropical island hop is rough waters.
Georgia and David are a long-divorced couple who team up to stop Lily’s (Kaitlyn Dever) nuptials because she met her husband-to-be just 37 days earlier during a vacation in Bali, while celebrating graduation from law school. Lily has decided to give up her career di lei to marry a handsome local seaweed farmer named Gede (Maxime Bouttier).
Her parents may loathe each other, but they are determined to not let Lily make the same mistake they did.
Director and co-writer Ol Parker’s film tries too hard to balance our sympathy for both couples. David and Georgia understandably feel that their daughter is jumping into a marriage – and faraway new country – too quickly. Many parents would feel skittish about that. But Lily and Gede are unfailingly sweet, young and optimistic, and we’re not itching for them to break up either. It’s an onslaught of compassion.
Weirdly for this wishy-washy star vehicle, though, nobody ends up being particularly likable.
The older, divorced couple is too mean and their antics are not funny enough. Mom and dad could commit horrible acts if they make us laugh, like Robert De Niro did to Ben Stiller with his wicked CIA machinations in “Meet the Parents.” But Georgia and David are, to put it simply, joyless jackasses.
Roberts, actually, has fought to break up a marriage before, much more successfully, in 1997’s “My Best Friend’s Wedding.” That comedy made us adore her di lei character di lei Jules and we wanted her to defeat Cameron Diaz’s ditzy Kimmy. Here, we root for nobody.
That’s because the young lovers aren’t believably in love. They are pancake-flat characters – probably since the director is afraid to give them too much screen time because of Roberts and Clooney’s paychecks – and they don’t grab our hearts.
There are two passable ploys to get giggles.
Billie Lourd plays Wren, Lily’s hot mess best friend who travels with her to Bali. Wren isn’t wild enough, however, and her jokes di lei drip, drip, drip out of the faucet. Lourd, a fantastic actress, is much funnier than the shoddy material she’s been handed.
And Lucas Bravo, who plays the sexy chef on “Emily In Paris,” is Georgia’s bumbling French pilot boy toy. He is a peu funny.
But what’s absolutely hysterical is Roberts’ hair. When the quartet gets stranded on an island, Georgia sleeps against a log in the woods. When she wakes up, her locks di lei are immaculate, touched only by curlers and skilled technicians, not the harsh elements.
“Ticket to Paradise” would be a better time if it was as campy as its lead actress’ frozen hair.