By Roshan Chandy
Kaitlyn Jenner and George Clooney being a good dad make this trashpot tourist flick bearable – despite Julia Roberts’ annoyingly big teeth.
When I first saw the trailer for this tourist’s eye rom-com set in Bali, Indonesia, I honestly thought walking on broken glass would be more fun. It’s that typical tale of a bunch of rich Americans going to a foreign country and being incredibly offensive and disrespectful to the locals. It looked like I’m sure it was playing to racial stereotypes about the Far East with a subplot involving George Clooney and Julia Roberts’ daughter hooking up with a handsome Indonesian. It’s directed by Ol Parker who did Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again! (2018) which had its perks, but was hardly the Shakespearean stuff of legend. Most of all, it stars Julia Roberts who is one of the least talented actresses of all and always annoys me because of how big her teeth are!
On the plus side, it stars George Clooney who always plays the smooth, silver-haired, smoldering womanizer, but does it so, so well and is truly one of the sexiest men alive. And it stars Kaitlyn Denver who was so funny, sassy and brilliant in Booksmart (2019) which is one of the great teen films of the past 5 years. So, all in all, there are some pluses, but a lot of minuses. Not to mention the fact that the very presence of Julia Roberts is about a million minuses!
I went in fearing the worst. And I have to say I was pleasantly surprised or should I say unpleasantly surprised. Ticket to Paradise (2022) is everything I expected it to be and features stuff in it that I hate more than most Kevin Hart comedies. It’s culturally insensitive and cringe-worthy when it comes to racial politics. The story is that George Clooney and Julia Roberts have a law student (I know I don’t believe it either) daughter (Denver) whose off to marry some Indonesian beau who looks a lot like Henry Golding. She takes them on a family honeymoon to Bali yet both George and Julia behave like buffoons – obviously Julia especially.
The first thing to say is that this is one of Julia Roberts’ worst and most insufferable performances. I’ve always hated the fact she always plays the patronizing, spoilt rich American woman who conforms to every bimbo stereotype in the book. Lots of men think she’s one of the most attractive women alive and she was the rom-com queen of the 90s for sure. But I always found her not a patch on Meg Ryan who was just sweet and lovely. And Julia’s teeth are not only some of the biggest, but some of the most annoying. She needs a bloody tooth job!
Once again, in this movie, Roberts is at her most insufferable. She’s rich, she’s bratty and wears more cringe-inducingly designer brand outfits than Sarah Jessica Parker would pose like a xenophobic cow in any of the Sex and the City films or TV episodes. She unfortunately does a lot of smiling too; flashing her big, ugly horse whites for permanent pupil scarring. And she speaks down and patronizes all the Indonesian locals. It’s a worse performance than Eat, Pray, Love (2010) which was such an offensive movie.
George Clooney is such a sexual and seductive presence in everything he does. He’s unquestionably one of the most attractive guys of all time and looks years half his age despite his silver hair. He’s the silver-haired fox of 20th Century cinema – making the ladies swoon with his smooth, charming charisma. I’ve always loved him more than Brad Pitt despite the fact many of his performances are every bit as arrogant and involve him simply playing the smooth, dead sexy, silver-haired fox.
In this movie, Clooney is very much that and gets bitten in the balls by a dolphin. I laughed at that moment. It has some of the physical comedy of Rowan Atkinson meets Jaws (1975). But George’s storyline is also the beating heart of the drama which involves him bonding with his student age daughter who’s played with such girl next door charm by Kaitlyn Denver.
Kaitlyn Denver was so fantastic in Booksmart (2019). She has the looks of Emma Roberts, but a much better and more versatile actress. In this movie, her face is a contortion of Emma Stone-esque comic chops when it comes to sass and rosy-cheeked English rosiness only American-accented. She’s just lovely – a patchwork of love and friendship. And I loved her chemistry with the Indonesian boy and indeed with George Clooney who gets to prove what a good dad he could be were he not an absent one and certainly has his daddy’s little girl moments with Kaitlyn.
The Bali settings and scenery are stunning too even if they are very stereotypical, whitewashed and tourist’s eye with only the glamorous bits shown. I still teared up at Kaitlyn’s wedding, though, which’s locations remind me of Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008) which I never liked, but always had stunning scenery.
Ticket to Paradise is a big, handsome mushpot of a rom-com. It’s got Julia Roberts’ worst performance in years for sure along with some of her worst teeth. It’s got offensive Asian stereotypes and patronising Americans, sure. But it’s also got George Clooney learning to be a good dad against the backdrop of the most beautiful Bali perhaps I’ve ever seen put to screen. And Kaitlyn Denver is a wonder to behold and a fabulous actress. We’ll certainly be seeing more of where she came from…