Judge Erich Asperschlager had two tickets to paradise, but they wanted to charge him to check his luggage so he decided not to go.
Our review of Two Tickets To Paradise, published September 8th, 2010, is also available.
Good Friends, Good Times, Great Seats!
D.B. Sweeney helms a road trip buddy picture that takes too many detours.
Facts of the Case
With their lives falling apart around them, three late-thirty-something childhood friends embark on a road trip to the College Football Championship Bowl—thanks to a pair of tickets won by office supply salesman Jason (Paul Hipp, Three Sisters) in a company raffle. Former rocker/current deliveryman Billy (D.B. Sweeney, Jericho) is anxious to get away from his cheating wife, while ex-quarterback Mark (John C. McGinley, Scrubs), has a more pressing reason to get out of town—a thug who's looking to collect from him on the gambling debt that drove his wife to pack up their son and leave.
Two Tickets to Paradise marks the producing, directing, and co-writing debut of actor/celebrity skater D.B. Sweeney. For me, the more firmly a film falls on one pair of shoulders, the tougher it is to be critical. It's easy to blame groupthink and studio interference for the worst summer blockbusters, but when a film is so obviously a labor of love, any attack feels like a personal one. Luckily, I don't need to be too harsh on Sweeney or his film. It's not a great movie (or even necessarily a good one), but it's a solid freshman effort with genuine, touching performances from three strong leads.
The emotional center of Two Tickets is the friendship between its working class trio of Mark, Billy, and Jason—lifelong friends joined in their unwillingness to grow up and take responsibility for their problems.
Mark Hewson used to be a star athlete in high school—a young man destined for greatness. But professional athlete is a tough gig to land, so the closest Mark can get these days are the bets he places on games played by those who beat him out for the job. Whether by design or by acting prowess, John C. McGinley becomes the movie's de facto lead. The veteran actor gives a fine performance, filled with emotional intensity that conveys his anger at the life he's made for himself, his complex feelings about his friends, and love for his wife and son.
Billy McGriff used to be a famous rock star—headlining shows and fighting off chicks. But fame is fickle, and when hard rock gives way to acoustic balladry, it's tough keeping even the most fervent of fans. McGriff relives his glory days by playing guitar on the loading dock for his co-workers, and accepting compliments from the man he catches with his wife. For a relatively minor star in the acting world, Sweeney (looking like a rough-around-the-edges Paul Rudd) gives this character his all, riding the fine line between meek and masculine. He's a former stud who's completely unwilling to stand up for himself to his friends or his wife—who, incidentally, is played by Moira Kelly, Sweeney's co-star from The Cutting Edge. Thing is, though she's prominently displayed on the cover, she's barely in the film—sad news for Cutting Edge fans looking forward to a reunion. In the further interest of truth in advertising, it should also be noted that at no point in the movie does she wear the corset and fishnet combo from the cover. Believe me, I checked.
Jason Klein is arguably worst off as the guy without any past fame to relive. The poor schlub lives with his parents and can't get a date (not even by giving an attractive stranger his employee discount on a printer). His only contribution to the road trip—and the one he holds most tightly to—is the fact that he won the tickets. Paul Hipp, like his character, can't quite stand up to his more memorable co-stars. I guess if someone has to play comic relief, though, Hipp deserves credit for playing his character well enough to not be a joke.
The acting is strong. The characters are compelling and have good rapport. Why, then, doesn't Two Tickets to Paradise work? The story.
The movie begins with a solid premise that, while not wholly original, at least sets up the framework for either a heartfelt journey of discovery or a madcap comic misadventure. The problem with Two Tickets is that is tries to split the difference. It succeeds best on an emotional level. Mark, Billy, and Jason talk and argue with each other like real-life friends—about women, music, and sports. The problem is that Sweeney and co-writer Brian Currie can't quite figure out how to help their characters transition from selfish man-children to self-confident adults, so they rely on unlikely scenarios and unconvincing plot twists to get them there. Two Tickets to Paradise wants to be a comedy, but can't find its voice. The "funny" scenes are either over-the-top, or way too dark. At one point, they visit Vanna White's birthplace, then accidentally burn it down. There's a large sequence that includes both attempted suicide and characters faking their deaths. There's also way too much footage of men peeing. It's too bad Sweeney feels like he has to go for big comic set pieces. The funniest moments happen when his characters are just talking to each other.
The film's biggest problem is that the story treads water for far too long in the middle, willingly abandoning major plot points (like the football game) when something shinier catches its attention. Two Tickets to Paradise has promise, but never takes full advantage of its strong cast of characters.
Visually, the picture looks fine except for occasional film grain. The surround audio doesn't give the speakers much to do, but Sweeney gets points for assembling a soundtrack that includes Springsteen, Dire Straits, and Bob Dylan.
The extras are standard fare—some deleted scenes, outtakes, and trailers for the movie in its final form, as well as with its original title, Dirt Nap. There's also a commentary track recorded by D.B. Sweeney. His talk strays towards the technical, but considering how invested he was in the creation of the film, his enthusiasm for things like how long they shot on a North Carolina bridge, or why certain continuity errors bug him make sense. He also confirms a suspicion I had while watching the movie: product placement was a huge part of financing the project. Sweeney paid for the movie himself, so he struck deals with Coors and Dunkin' Donuts, among other companies, to offset the cost. Those deals are the basis for some funny stories about ways in which they weren't allowed to use the products.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I'd like to thank D.B. Sweeney for avoiding the worst road trip movie cliches. His characters never run out of gas. They don't pick up hitchhikers. They don't get robbed by three hot women they meet in a bar. They do have car trouble, but since it's self-inflicted I'll let it slide.
Two Tickets to Paradise can't quite get past the misguided comedy set pieces that take focus away from a moving drama about three friends taking control of their lives. I wanted to like this film. It just never came together. Still, it's a strong enough effort that D.B. Sweeney should get the chance to try again.
Guilty, but with a suspended sentence.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: First Look Pictures
• Deleted Scenes
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