“Ticket to Paradise,” the new movie starring Julia Roberts and George Clooney, could not have appeared any more appealing to audiences than it did throughout its marketing run. The movie promised a star-studded cast including Kaitlyn Dever from “Booksmart” and “Dear Evan Hansen,” French heartthrob Lucas Bravo from “Emily in Paris” and Billie Lourd from “Scream Queens.” The film’s trailer is made up of breathtaking views of Bali and its scenic beaches. The plot also promised a genuine comedy to its audiences, as it revolves around two quarreling divorced parents reuniting in an attempt to break up the engagement of their daughter Lily (Kaitlyn Dever) and the seaweed farmer she met while abroad. Unfortunately, the movie as a whole fails to deliver, despite its potential.
The movie’s only real strength lies in its cast. Despite its characters being one-dimensional, audiences are likely to forgive the film, given that it is made up of acting legends. Julia Roberts and George Clooney, who play exes Georgia and David Cotton, have incredible chemistry that overshadows their exaggerated — and sometimes cringe-worthy — interactions. In one such scene, Georgia and David find out that they’re sitting in the same aisle on a plane and throw a tantrum, demanding they be moved even though the flight is full. With any other actors, viewers would be replete with second-hand embarrassment — peeking at the screen from between their fingers — but because of Roberts and Clooney’s masterful acting, they look on, bemused.
Lucas Bravo was also cast perfectly in his role as Georgia’s eager-to-please younger boyfriend Paul. Since the actor behind Paul is a charming, European stud, the audience views his two-time proposal to Georgia as cute instead of pathetic — even when it’s obvious that their love is deeply unrequited. No one other than Bravo could have delivered Paul’s character with such ease.
Billie Lourd’s presence is yet another example of the film attempting to compensate for its faults with an impressive cast list. Lourd, who is Carrie Fisher’s daughter and known most famously for her role in “Scream Queens,” plays Lily Cotton’s best friend, Wren Butler, who accompanies her to Bali. Despite Lourd’s inclusion, she is wasted as the character of Wren, who fills the archetype of “sidekick” with no original twist. But because Wren is portrayed by a famous actress, viewers once again accept, even embrace, her presence in the movie.
But while talented cast members are able to make up for their superficial characters, they cannot compensate for the film’s unoriginal storyline. The film’s plot is built around Lily’s graduation trip to Bali, where she falls in love with a local named Gede and decides to spend the rest of her life in the country. It is full of overused cliches, from enemies to lovers, to foreign romances, to the merging of different families. Somehow, “Ticket to Paradise” manages to check every box on the list of tired tropes — and does it poorly. The enemies-to-lovers relationship between Georgia and David is predictable and overshadows their daughter’s alleged fairytale romance. Lily and Gede’s supposed whirlwind romance does not get nearly enough attention, to the point where the audience becomes uncertain whether to root for their marriage or Georgia and David’s attempts to break them up.
The trope of different cultures coming together through marriage in spite of disapproving parents could have also been very funny and enjoyable to watch — think “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” — but it is barely present in the movie. While there are a few moments where Georgia and David are taken aback by Bali wedding traditions, none of their interactions with Gede’s family are actually amusing. “Ticket to Paradise” fails to strike the balance between risk and respect that gives movies about multicultural couples their edge.
If anything, Georgia and David’s discomfort at their daughter marrying a foreigner has xenophobic undertones, which are never explicitly stated. In not facing the family’s reluctance to embrace cultural difference head-on, the movie fails to celebrate the merging of different cultures and to deliver moments of genuine humor.