More proof that the standard of Hollywood screenwriting ain’t what it used to be, this jovial but largely LOL-free romcom hires Hollywood royalty in Julia Roberts and George Clooney only to equip them with a pauper’s grave of a screenplay to work with. It’s never a good sign when a comedy’s funniest moment comes during the end-credits outtakes, but such is Ticket to Paradise, a movie crying out for a few more bubbles in its fizz.
And it does have some fizz. Because it’s never going to be a total ordeal watching Julia Roberts and George Clooney teaming up for the fourth time as squabbling exes on spectacular Balinese beaches (actually Australia’s Hamilton Island), dad (and mum)-dancing to House of Pain, getting sozzled and embracing all kinds of enjoyable indignities (this is a movie in which Clooney gets assaulted by a dolphin).
The tropical scenario that the bickering pair jet into involves their young lawyer daughter (Kaitlyn Devers) becoming seduced by Bali’s local pleasures – including twinkly-eyed seaweed farmer, Gede (French-Indonesia actor Maxime Bouttier), with whom she’s very swiftly bethrothed. Soon the warring divorcees are teaming up on a ‘Trojan Horse’ operation to get their daughter back to the States and the life of corporate drudgery she was meant for.
But will love conquer all? Does the spark still burn between the old ex-marrieds two decades on? No prizes for guessing where all this is going, and it’s not a breakdown of capitalist decay and sustainable farming practices (although there is a bit where Clooney and Roberts throw seaweed at each other).
It’s never a good sign when a comedy’s funniest moment comes during the end-credits outtakes
And it’ll come as no surprise either that it’s directed by the man behind Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!, Brit director Ol Parker, because the tonal and plot similarities are obvious – although it does miss the musical hook of all those ABBA songs.
But the screwball premise needs a bit more from the pinball script than weightless scenarios involving aggressive bottlenoses and unexpected snakebites. French actor Lucas Bravo is poorly served as Roberts’ clingy but handsome airline pilot boyfriend, while Booksmart’s Devers is lumbered with the lumpen role of embarrassed daughter and adoring fiancée.
Still, while the tartness and wit is missing to elevate this anywhere near the romantic-comedy canon, the overall vibe is so cosy and frothy, you’d need a heart of steel to hate it. And if it kickstarts a romcom revival, that’ll truly be worth celebrating.
In cinemas worldwide Oct 21.