Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Sadly I can relate to the gentlemen in this movie ‘Two Tickets to Paradise’, featuring the directorial debut of long time good guy actor D.B. Sweeney. Before there was Paul Rudd being that amiable funny dude in movies whose name you didn’t know, there was D.B. Sweeney. Anyway, this movie concerns three friends, all in their late thirties and with their lives in various stages of disarray. Now I can’t relate to these cats directly, because in this fictional work these guys lives are truly f’d, however I can relate to being on the dark side of thirty with my principle purpose on this planet being writing film reviews that hardly anybody reads, about movies that hardly anybody watches. Not that I’m a complainin’.

This is the tale of the lives of three friends whose lives have gone a bit awry. Mark (John C. McGinley) is that guy in high school who seemed to have it all. A fantastic athlete, ladies man, reasonably intelligent… the person who you would tell your children one day ‘I KNEW that guy’. Unfortunately Mark has become a compulsive gambler, in hock deep to his bookies who come to his house scaring his young son and his wife Sherry (Janet– we’ll always have ‘American Anthem’ - Jones). Not that I’m saying anything in particular, but one wonders if they used Mrs. Jones-Gretzky as a consultant on the whole sports gambling angle in this flick. Billy (Sweeney) was the rock star of the group who at one time looked like he had the goods to take it all the way. Somewhere along the line though he settled into mediocrity and now drives a Coors truck, and dotes on his wife Kate (Moira Kelly – reuniting the stars of ‘The Cutting Edge’) who he will soon find out is polishing the knobs of others in neighborhood, for money no less, while he is out delivering beer. Lastly we have Jason (Paul Hipp) who is the shrinking violet of the three, the kid who used to tag-along with his much cooler friends, but who is not without his merits as he was a 4.0 caliber student and law school candidate who is now painfully single and more painfully working in an office supply store.

In a pure chance occurring, Jason wins a pair tickets to the College Championship Game in Florida and the three buddies, with their lives in complete tatters jump in Mark’s Plymouth Fury and head to the Big Game. There are two tickets and three dudes, but they’ll figure all that out when they get there. So now we have a real live road picture on our hands with three buddies who will spend this quality time challenging each others manhood, dodging alligators, plotting their suicides, drinking a boat load of brew, burning down Vanna White’s childhood home, ingesting hallucinogenic mushrooms but also discovering what the true meaning of ‘friendship’ is. It’s a beautiful thing. At least in theory.

Originally titled ‘Dirt Nap’ which is pretty crappy title, not that ‘Two Tickets to Paradise’ is that much better, this is a very uneven freshman outing for Sweeny who has created a film that is funny, boring, sweet, derivative, interesting and bland from scene to scene. Being in the business for as long as he has, and seeming to be a very nice person has landed Sweeny a fine cast for his movie which is the films major strength. Leading the cast is the venerable McGinley who routinely turns in inspired performances be it in cameos in flicks like ‘Wild Hogs’, as a regular in the ‘Scrubs’ television show or as the suicidal self destructive fallen hero in this film, watching McGinley in action is worth the price of a ticket by itself. Not to be outshone, Sweeny and Hipp all play off each other quite well and mange to give their somewhat derivative characters some depth and texture.

The pacing of the film is a bit off as the audience kind of sits around waiting for things to happen. It’s like that this is a film that couldn’t establish a beat or a rhythm. The narrative was also bit uneven as screenwriters Sweeny and Brian Currie did a fine job in creating convincing and realistic dialog for their characters, but the situations that they found themselves in were unrealistic and by the end of the movie the script went ahead and just jumped into the pool of cliché and forced sentimentality and ultimately drowned in it.

Nonetheless, for a forty-five year old dude making his directorial debut I thought overall D.B. Sweeny did an admirable job with his film, one that featured some very good performances which got muddled down a bit with unfocused narrative. Should he choose to craft a second film, I would expect it to be that much better.

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