Two Tickets To Paradise
Road trip movies have been around for a long time. Most likely your parents or grandparents were big fans of the famous series of road films featuring Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. If you don’t know who they were just talk to the older folks awhile or better yet rent a couple of their movies. This genre is popular because there is nothing like a road trip to being out the worse in people as anyone who had such a trip with their families can attest to. Over the years there has been just about every variation imaginable. There are the family trip, the best friends, the boy and girl who hate each other and of late the stoner road trip. Now another such film has joined the ever growing ranks ‘Two Tickets to Paradise’. Originally the film had showings under the name ‘Dirt Nap’. Usually it is not a great sign when a film goes to DVD under a different name. Then again a straight to video release used to be the kiss of death for films that no studio would touch. This film is proves that this old paradigm is changing. This film is funny and after all that is what you want most for a comedy. There are no moral messages here, just good old fashion entertainment. The movie was the darling of the film festival circuit garnering one win after another. It is sharply written, well directed and sports a cast that knows the way to make an audience laugh.
There is an old adage in Hollywood that all directors want to act and all actors aspire to direct. More times than not the results are disastrous. Even a great actor like Jack Nicholson had problems with his first time when he directed ‘The Two Jakes’. Fortunately for this film D.B. Sweeney manages to show incredible potential with his first opus presented here. It is not as if he was known for his work in comedy. Mostly he was cast as the villain or at least the tough guy in most of his many roles on television and in films. Many may remember one of his latest roles as the corporate mercenary in the late, lamented TV show ‘Jericho’. As I watched that and was impressed by his performance little did I realize I was also watching one of the upcoming comedy directors coming up today. Sweeney co-authored the script with another actor branching out in a new direction, Brian Currie. The first and foremost thing about this story is that it knows its target audience and is not ashamed of that fact. This is a film for a mostly overlooked demographic of late, the middle aged man. Most recent comedies either go for the high school to college aged guys or turn to the romantic plot lines and become a chick flick. Just to keep things clear here I use that term with great respect and enjoy many of those films myself. Instead Sweeney and Currie write about men who have come to the brutal realization that their best days are long behind them. Even the wives and girlfriends of the aforementioned group may get a kick out of watching grown men acting foolishly proving what they always suspected was indeed true. The script ass presented here is witty with better than the usual juvenile scatological excuse for humor. The characters are not the typical dolts; they are likeable and easy for the men in the audience to identify with. The audience is allowed to understand these men and while they put themselves in such outrageous situations. The dialogue is natural even when it is meaningless. Men do tend to talk about nothing in particular. One scene has the men going on about that really bad song on every rock album that follows a great song but it stinks. These topics may seem strange but they are what men talk about when isolated from any female influences. The narrative does lose its way towards the end of the film but by then you are hooked on what is going on and don’t really care about the technical mistakes.
As a director Sweeney does well but admittedly there is room for improvement. The film is choppy in places and there is some problems with the pacing. A film like this should flow smoothly from one gag to the next. This one has trouble in the transitional scenes; they have the tendency to feel forced and artificial. The film is visually bland with is a surprise for a road trip flick. Usually the scenery can help the viewers move over the slow spots. Here there is nothing that pops out at you. He is still on the learning curve but is still a step above most of the first time independent directors out there. At least he didn’t go the usual horror flick route. There is also some cases where the computer graphics show up as too obvious. Okay,this was made on a shoestring budget but of late I just watched a Scottish Indy flick that was made for a fraction of this one and its special effects usage was more prevalent and much better executed. The thing is even with these somewhat glaring faults I didn’t care, I found myself enjoying the movie.
Mark (John C. McGinley), Jason Klein (Paul Hipp) and Bill McGriff (D.B. Sweeney) have been best friends all their lives. They grew up and still live in a little town in Pennsylvania. In their youth Mark was the local football sensation but lately the only gridiron action he sees is with his incessant gambling. Unfortunately he is not as successful with his bookie as he was with his old college coach. McGriff has never been able to let go of his dreams of being a rock star. He is still very much in love with his wife Sherry (Janet Jones) and their son Hayden (Tristan Gretzky) but somehow life just didn’t turn out the way he wanted it to. Jason is pretty much the biggest loser in the group. He is still living with his parents and they pretty much run every aspect of his life. Things begin to go far off track when one of Mark’s bookies comes to collect a long overdue debt. He comes right to their home and winds up taking Hayden as collateral. This is only the beginning of things going wrong for Mark; he finds out his father just died. Life isn’t looking any better for McGriff; he comes home early from work and finds his wife Kate (Moira Kelly) in bed with another man. Adding insult to injury the man was a big fan of McGriff during his glory days. The one bright spot is offered up by Jason. He just won two tickets to the College Football Championship Bowl in an office pool. The men decide that they need a change of scenery and set off on a road trip to the game. So off they go to Florida. Things start to go wrong on the trip almost immediately. Jason loses the map, McGriff is driving everyone crazy with his constant guitar playing and Mark can’t shake his depression. They have encounters with hungry gators, drink a huge amount of beer and even drunkenly make plans for a suicide pack by jumping off a bridge.
This is a film that makes a lot of mistakes but it is easy to overlook them all because you are too busy having fun. There are so many flicks out there where the recent film school graduates follow every rule in their textbooks and their movies fall to entertain. The DVD release is from First Look Studios. They search out the best of the Indy festival world and bring those films to your home theater. This is one that will make you laugh and is well worth having.