They get the "rom" part right in "Ticket to Paradise" but it could use some more "com."
The fault may be in the movie's marketing, which makes it look like a quippy romantic comedy in Bali. Which it's not. Co-star Julia Roberts has acted opposite handsome co-star Javier Bardem in that Indonesian utopia — "Eat Pray Love" — but she and George Clooney mostly shot the Bali-set "Paradise" in Australia. And, after they trade mildly amusing insults in the first couple scenes of "Paradise," it shifts to a more contemplative look at what went wrong with their characters' marriage.
Georgia (Roberts) is a gallerist and jumpsuit enthusiast who was married to attorney David (Clooney) two decades ago. They divorced and, as Georgia notes, have tried not to be in the same time zone ever since. That ends when their daughter Lily (Kaitlyn Dever) announces her vacation in Bali has turned to forever in Bali because she has fallen in love with a seaweed farmer. They head to Indonesia to attend her wedding, but in fact, to break it up.
There's something a little sour in that premise: a romantic comedy that doesn't believe in romance and in which the two leads can't stand each other. That sourness holds back the first third of "Paradise" and gets confusing when the marriage-disruption begins since somehow smart, together Lily is completely duped by her bickering parents' show of fake support. Has she never met them?
A certain amount of fakery comes with the rom-com territory. We're willing to go with things like everyone in "Paradise" being fabulously wealthy and having perfect skin if the script is clever enough — which "Paradise" isn't quite — or if the characters have enough charm, which Dever, Clooney and especially Roberts do. One miscalculation: funny Billie Lourd, in what's supposed to be a comic supporting role, is stuck playing Lily's man-hungry bestie, who seems to have wandered into the movie from about 1937.
Unexpectedly, romance saves the day. Lily's bond with her beau (Maxime Bouttier) is sweet, as is the idea that Georgia and David's marriage may not have turned out well but it gave them a daughter who did. And Clooney and Roberts have legit chemistry, which is not surprising since they're friends in real life and since they're playing variations on roles they've already tackled in three "Ocean's" movies.
That's not the only element of the movie you may feel like you've seen before. Writer/director Ol Parker isn't an especially stylish filmmaker but, as in the "Exotic Marigold Hotel" and "Mamma Mia!" sequel, he proves adept at shifting the action between beautiful couples falling in love while standing in front of gorgeous, sun-drenched vistas.
That's not a formula for a classic movie but, if you like Roberts and Clooney, it may be just the ticket for you.
'Ticket to Paradise'
**1/2 out of 4 stars
Rated: PG-13 for language.
Where: In theaters.