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Middlebrow Ticket to Paradise Coasts on Stars' Charisma | Movie/TV

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I can’t help but think Ticket to Paradise exists because George Clooney would rather die than do another comic-book movie.

Anybody who knows Clooney’s history knows he had such a horrible time stepping into that tight-ass rubber suit as the Caped Crusader in 1997’s notoriously campy batman & robin that he made it his life’s work never to do bullshit like that again. Unfortunately, these days, Hollywood primarily makes bullshit like that. (Hell, there’s another DC movie out this weekend.) And since multiplexes are now filled with tentpole films, franchise installments and other IP-resuscitating sure things, it looks like the only movie an aging A-lister like Clooney can do is a silly comedy that isn’t too embarrassing.

In ParadiseClooney once again teams up with longtime on-screen partner Julia Roberts (who also hasn’t done any comic-book movies, but has said she wouldn’t mind doing one) in what seems like a more dignified, less shitty version of that long-forgotten, Bette Midler-Dennis Farina comedy That Old Feeling. Just like in that film, Clooney and Roberts are bickering exes who attend the wedding of their only daughter (Kaitlyn Dever). Considering that this: 1. is a movie about a wedding, and 2. Julia Roberts is in it, you know she’s screw things up. Roberts’ and Clooney’s characters put the zingers on pause and form a united front, secretly conspiring to prevent their daughter from marrying a sweet, studly, successful seaweed farmer (Maxime Bouttier) and making what they believe is the biggest mistake of her life.

There’s not a lot of heavy lifting in this one, either behind or in front of the camera. With most of the movie set in Bali (though it was shot in Australia), nearly everyone involved treats it like the lightweight vacation it so resembles. During their characters’ mission, Clooney and Roberts (who also serve as executive producers) both engage in mild, slapsticky bits that aren’t so much hilarious as they are peculiar to watch. (Whenever they’ve gotten the chance to be funny in the past, Clooney and Roberts were more witty than physical.)

Co-writer/director Ol Parker (Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again) gives us a toothless but sincere screwballer here that does come to a sensible (albeit predictable) conclusion at the end. The cast also elevates the material by playing their rom-com archetypes like flawed, sympathetic humans, and that includes Carrie Fisher offspring Billie Lourd as the daughter’s boozy/floozy gal pal — the kind of character who would usually end up in bed with one of the male characters (there’s a late-night scene with her and Clooney where I thought for sure that would happen) and Emily in Paris co-star Lucas Bravo as Roberts’ French himbo boyfriend.

If this came out 20 years ago, I would’ve been surprised (maybe even disappointed) at the sight of two of the biggest movie stars in the world slumming it in a lazy but likable comedy. Unfortunately, it’s 2022, and movie stars from that era are either doing prestige TV shows or comic-book movies, usually playing the villain. (The MCU is literate with performances by Oscar winners who come in, blow everyone off the screen as the resident Big Bad, and leave to pick up their check.) If screen legends like Clooney and Roberts wanna do something that doesn’t involve superheroes or streaming platforms, I guess middlebrow movies like Ticket to Paradise are gonna have to do.