‘Ticket to Paradise’: Plot of Bali-set rom-com is skimpy as a bikini


(2 stars)

In “Ticket to Paradise,” George Clooney and Julia Roberts play a divorced couple who reunite in Bali for the marriage of their daughter — and who wouldn’t want to escape to a tropical isle with Hollywood royalty? This light comedy may have its heart in the right place, generating just enough sparks to light up a dark movie theater. But even the lush scenery never quite makes you forget that the writing is skimpier than a bikini.

David (Clooney) and Georgia (Roberts) are no longer married, and not amicably. Georgia prefers to keep her ex at least one time zone away at all times.

But life — or, more accurately, the screenplay by director Ol Parker, co-written with Daniel Pipski — contrives to reunite them on this Indonesian island paradise, where their daughter Lily has decided to put aside a promising law career to marry a handsome seaweed farmer named Gede (Maxime Bouttier).

Can the bickering parents stop their daughter from making what they consider to be a huge mistake? Or maybe the mistake was theirs, in splitting up?

For the most part, “Ticket to Paradise” goes down as easy as a mai tai, with swooning camerawork suitable for a travel ad. (It works: You’ll walk out wanting to reserve a ticket to Bali, even though the film was shot in Australia.) As the sparring couple, Clooney and Roberts are perfectly watchable. If their character-development arc isn’t entirely convincing, at least they have one.

Not so the rest of the cast, whose personalities are barely drawn. Aside from a vivid performance by first-time actor Agung Pindha — who was hired as the film’s cultural consultant but turned out to be an excellent choice to play Gede’s father — Clooney and Roberts might as well be surrounded by a bevy of attractive animatronic figures, all exclaiming, “Welcome to Bali — where magic happens.”

Despite this, the film manages, at times, to build a mild tension, fueled by comic rancor — occasionally rendered in split-screen compositions that, unfortunately, recall the more gruesome work of director Brian De Palma.

Here, the gore is purely emotional: David and Georgia are financially secure, but at heart they’re broken, unhappy people who put career before their relationship. Although Gloria is now dating a dashing French pilot (Lucas Bravo), you shouldn’t count on that working out, given the conventions of the rom-com.

This one has good bones, but just as David and Gloria are starting to get back together — you saw that coming, didn’t you? — they too turn into automatons of a sort. You might even find that you miss their venom. It’s way more fun to watch movie stars argue than watch them luxuriate among the local population.

As Gede puts it, there can only be harmony through a balance of “nature, God and people.” That’s a nice message, but a bit patronizing to the people of Bali, who seem to exist in “Ticket to Paradise” mainly as foils for rich Americans.

The film lacks the quick wit of such 1990s rom-coms as “Notting Hill” — much less such 1930s screwball classics as “The Awful Truth,” whose storyline of remarriage is vaguely parroted here. Though lacking in the script department, this cinematic wonderland delivers on one promise: escape, to a place of such natural beauty that even these affluent characters, however cardboard, are forced to take stock of the important things in life.

PG-13. At area theaters. Contains some strong language, brief suggestive material and drinking games. 104 minutes.

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