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Two Tickets to Paradise

aka Dirt Nap; Life’s a Trip

D: D.B. Sweeney / 90m

Cast: John C. McGinley, Paul Hipp, D.B. Sweeney, Ed Harris, Janet Jones, Moira Kelly, Rex Linn Tanya Mayeux, M.C. Gainey, Mark Moses, Pat Hingle

Three friends, Mark (McGinley), Jason (Hipp) and Billy (Sweeney), embark on a road trip to see a championship football match, partly because they haven’t done anything together like this for ages, and partly to escape the troubles they each have at home.  Mark is a gambler, in deep with his bookie. When a collector (Brian Doyle-Murray, the movie’s co-scripter) comes to his home, his wife Sherry (Jones) takes their son away with her until Mark can get his gambling under control. Jason is a bit of a nerd, disrespected by his work colleagues and unlucky in love; he just wants to break away from the small town ties that bind him. And Billy, a singer who never saw a musical career materialise and who now works in a warehouse, has discovered his wife Kate (Kelly) is having an affair.

On the way to the game the three friends must overcome the usual hurdles – losing their map, arguments amongst themselves, deciding whether or not to fake their deaths, to ingest hallucinogenic mushrooms or not to – and find the inner strength to make their lives a whole lot better.

Two Tickets to Paradise - scene

To date, this is actor D.B. Sweeney’s only directorial outing, and while Two Tickets to Paradise is wildly uneven and struggles to maintain its dramatic focus, there is still much that works. Working from his own (co-written) script, Sweeney’s strengths as a director come to the fore in his handling of his cast. McGinley and Hipp give life to otherwise stock characters, and the supporting cast add flavour to the proceedings.  The lead trio have a great chemistry together and if the resolutions to their individual dilemmas are entirely predictable, then it’s no fault of theirs.

Where the movie fails is in its structure and its storyline. The events that happen during the road trip don’t always ring true, especially when the guys try to impress three stoned young women and Jason ends up remarking on one woman’s “hoe tag” (tattoo); it’s a horribly misogynistic moment that sits uneasily with the movie’s mainly light-hearted approach. There’s no urgency about the trip, even when they lose their car, and it seems as if the game is weeks away. Sherry has a change of heart about Mark and decides to meet him at the game, but misses him, only to reappear later when one of them ends up in the hospital (and how did she know they were there?). Likewise the collector, who finds Mark at a motel they hadn’t booked ahead of time.

There’s also a recurring subplot involving Billy’s inability to stand up for himself. Time and again Mark tries to goad him into reacting, and while it’s fine once, by the fourth time it’s not only tired but frustrating as well (we get it!). Add to that the unlikely romance between Jason and Janice (Dilsey Davis), born out of a shared love of darts, and you have a movie that fails to work in so many ways that it almost becomes distracting.

I say “almost” because even with all this, Two Tickets to Paradise is a lot of fun to watch. It all hinges on the performances, and the humour Sweeney and Doyle-Murray have imbued the script with. The three leads are obviously having fun and this comes across as they make the best they can of often very thin material. (It would be interesting to know if there was any improvisation that made it into the final cut.) The humour, while broad at times, is still underplayed by all three, and there are plenty of one-liners that hit the mark with well-timed accuracy. Add in a touch of pathos here and there, and Two Tickets to Paradise proves vastly more effective on the comedy front than it does with the dramatic.

Rating: 6/10 – hit-and-miss throughout but on the whole an entertaining movie with enjoyable performances from its leads.

Originally posted on thedullwoodexperiment website.