George Clooney goes into his goofy comedy routine in this feelmoderate romcom from director and co-writer Ol Parker: an intergenerational tale of Crazy Rich Americans going to a wedding. Clooney brings some serious goof: he does his goofy face and the goof is onstream more or less from the outset. This may be to the unease of those who like him in a more sophisticated low-key style, such as in Ocean’s Eleven or Up in the Air, or those who look to the Coens to rein in and shape his broader comedy tendencies, as in O Brother, Where Art Thou? or Intolerable Cruelty.
Clooney plays David, a prosperous man in middle age who is divorced from high-flying art dealer Georgia; this is Julia Roberts. They were college sweethearts who got married way too early and split unhappily after the birth of their only child. But now, despite their sizzling mutual irritation, they must come together to attend the college graduation of their daughter Lily (Kaitlyn Dever), who has learned to suffer her parents’ undignified outbursts and immature tantrums with each other. Lily then heads off for a much-deserved holiday in Bali with her friend Wren (Billie Lourd), and there meets and falls in love with local seaweed farmer Gede (Maxime Bouttier). David and Georgia are horrified to receive the wedding invitation and agree on a cessation of hostilities to head out there, on a secret mission to sabotage this hasty marriage and save Lily from the same mistake they made.
There are one or two likably silly and daft moments in this film. Lucas Bravo (from Emily in Paris) has an amusing small part as Paul, the smoothie French airline pilot that Georgia is now dating and who – to David’s intense chagrin – is flying them to Bali. And it’s sweet when Georgia and David get drunk with the young couple and insist on playing beer pong in the street and doing embarrassing mum- and dad-dancing to some tunes from yesteryear. But I couldn’t help thinking that Nancy Meyers (the master of this kind of thing) would have created more dialogue, more situational intrigue, more comedy, and might have reined in Clooney. But Roberts’ part is within her skillset and Dever is fine also – although the latter’s performance in Olivia Wilde’s comedy Booksmart showed what she can do with a properly funny script. And it’s a shame that there wasn’t more for Lourd’s character to do.
Ticket to Paradise may well do great business to those looking for some escapist fun, and that’s entirely understandable. But I found the wacky double-act of George and Julia slightly hard work.
• Ticket to Paradise is released on 15 September in Australia, 20 September in the UK and 21 September in the US.