Ticket to Paradise, M. 104 minutes. 3 stars
In My Best Friend's Wedding, which is, in my opinion, Julia Roberts' best and most fun film, her character Jules does her very best to sabotage the wedding of her hunky college best friend for her own romantic ends.
While a terrifying 25 years have passed since that film, Julia Roberts wearing her producer hat, knows what works for an audience, for her audience, and as executive producer of Ticket to Paradise, she ensures the production cherry-picks the most audience-friendly Julia moments in this new romantic comedy.
There's the magnetism of and with her leading man George Clooney, and this is their sixth film together. There's the beauty of the film's other leading lady, the island of Bali, where her character found sexual enlightenment in the 2010 film Eat Pray Love.
There are also plenty of those open-throat laughing moments that made the world fall in love with her in 1990's Pretty Woman. She's still got it, that certain something.
Julia Roberts in Ticket to Paradise plays Georgia, long-divorced from David (George Clooney) and while they've raised a lovely daughter in Lily (Kaitlyn Deever), the former spouses can't even live in the same timezone, as we discover when we first meet them bickering in the auditorium at Lily's college graduation, where they have been unfortunately seated together.
But Georgia and David feel they must put two decades of animosity aside and work together when Lily writes from her post-college holiday in Bali with best pal Wren (Billie Lourd).
Lily has met the dishy Gede (Maxime Bouttier), a Balinese seaweed farmer, and she is throwing away her parents' ambitions for a career in law in the United States to get married and live in paradise.
Arriving in Bali on a plane piloted by Georgia's younger pilot boyfriend, Georgia and David plan a Trojan Horse-style sabotage on the nuptial celebrations, trying to appear supportive but undermining at every opportunity.
This is actually an Australian production, shot mostly in Queensland with some additional filming in Bali, and with plenty of Aussie names getting production credits on this big-budget extravaganza, and with the Whitsundays and Hamilton Island are dressed up as Bali and its Indonesian neighbours.
Clooney and Roberts give us everything we want and the screenplay by writer-director Ol Parker with Daniel Pipski gives them great sparring moments as the acrimonious former couple.
Like Jules from My Best Friend's Wedding, however, these two are actually the film's villains, which does take the edge off some of the moments set-up as comedy.
With those big-name stars in the leading roles there isn't much oxygen left for other players, and of the remainder of the cast, only Billie Lourd gets a role with a little meat on it.
We all have that slutty and funny best friend, perhaps some of us are that in our own friends lives, and Lourd gives her all and gives the film most of its gags.
She has a world-weariness that belies her youthful lovely face, though you might carry that same heft too if her mother was Carrie Fisher and your grandma was Debbie Reynolds, all of the show-boating and unwanted intention that must have some with.
The film's other laughs come mostly from Georgia's overlooked pilot boyfriend played by Lucas Bravo of Emily in Paris fame, an Armie Hammer lookalike without any of that internet-wrath-inducing personal baggage.
The two younger leads play their underwritten roles convincingly, especially the French-Indonesian Maxime Bouttier who has enjoyed a handful of roles on Indonesian television and like his other Indonesian castmates ought to enjoy the Hollywood exposure.
The film's best moments come when appealing directly to the over-40s audience it is built for, like Clooney and Roberts jumping around to House of Pain and other early 90s hits in a Denpasar bar surprisingly free of any Aussie tourist accents.
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