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MOVIE REVIEW: Two Tickets to Paradise

Another movie people will miss

I love the entire vibe of film festivals.

I've gone to so many small ones. I've been to Sundance a few times. And I've always loved the fact that Roger Ebert hosts one that focuses on overlooked movies, which is a great idea.

I can't tell you the amount of times I'm at a party and people start discussing their favorite films. How many times do I have to hear an idiot say "Scarface" was their favorite movie? Or a film snob talking about Fellini or Citizen Kane?

I ask people at parties to name movies they loved that nobody has heard of.

One of the movies on my list is Fandango; Kevin Costner's first starring role (which is usually not a ringing endorsement, I know).

This had three guys (a 4th if you can't the drunk in the backseat that never wakes up) going on a road trip.

I fear that Two Tickets to Paradise, which reminds me a lot of Fandango, will be another movie people miss.

I saw it at a film festival, and heard actor D.B. Sweeney (who wrote, directed, and financed the picture) talk about its release (which was a few years prior).

I'm not sure if it's going to make it onto the big screen or merely be released on DVD. And I can't imagine many people will see it in Blockbuster and take a chance on it, so I thought I'd write up the review.

Maybe I identified with this movie since I'm almost 40, and recently attended my 20 year reunion.

The three guys in this movie are around that age, and realize their best times are past them. They've got the usual problems - marriage, failed rock star dreams, cheating wives, and gambling addiction. Well, okay…those aren't the usual problems most folks have. I just like the fact that these fictional characters have them, and it feels so authentic.

I thought about how Kurt Russell was a former star quarterback working as an auto mechanic in Best of Times, and how that's more often the case then a QB rising to stardom in the NFL, or even been as successful in life as he was on the gridiron.

When the always reliable John C. McGinley (as the QB/gambler) gets angry, you can see it in his face. When he gets a big tip and wants to place a bet, you really feel like you're looking at somebody with an addiction (not like the humorous way Richard Dreyfuss gets a tip on a horse race in Let it Ride).

It was nice to see Moira Kelly, who starred with D.B. Sweeney in that cheesy ice skating movie (Cutting Edge).

Ed Harris makes an appearance as a carnie (missing an appendage). It's fun listening to his advice to the fellas (and of course, the story on losing the arm).

Sweeney's character is a former "local" rock star that's now driving a beer truck (the good looking athlete from my school, that had a full-ride at Stanford and hit the game winning home run in the College World Series, now drives a truck for Pepsi).

Sweeney brings his acoustic guitar everywhere. In the backseat of a car, this gets the guys all engaged in a few music debates (the dialog was good, but not nearly as clever as High Fidelity).

When Sweeney serenades some cute girls they cross paths with at a fast food place on the road (in a scene reminiscent of Fandango), with an acoustic version of the Styx song "Blue Collar Man," it's perhaps the funniest scene you'll ever see with a guy and a guitar on film.

It made me think of Reality Bites, a very disappointing movie that everyone seems to love. It had a scene with Ethan Hawke singing the Violent Femmes to an angry Wynona Ryder that I still think could've been written so much better.

And it's thoughts about other movies that have me so bummed about this movie; bummed at the fact that this might not be seen by folks.

Since I'm talking about other movies, let's talk about Vanna White. When they visit the "White house," and she pops up in a cameo, it's a lot funnier than the Bob Barker scene everyone loves so much in Happy Gilmore.

And comparing Vanna not turning letters but merely touching them, to Dylan going electric, is perhaps the greatest analogy in film history.

Remember the classic scene of Jack Nicholson trying to order toast in a diner? Funny stuff, but mostly because it had Nicholson before he became the "Here's Johnny!" everyone knew and loved.

In this, we get a funny scene ordering breakfast, where it's said that John Wayne hated hash browns.

This is good writing, people.

Another example of good writing doesn't just involve quick quips.

It can involve situations that seem more realistic than in other films.

One in this movie involve the gambler coming home, to find a thug in his house ready to collect. It's not a guy that is 6'5" with no neck and a huge led pipe in his hand. Instead, it's scarier that the guy is there, with the wife and kid nearby (we have no clue how he talked his way in, and it's better not knowing).

And the moments that pull at the heartstrings all seem authentic.

One friend tells another that he'd ask why he's running-off the two best friends he's ever had but "I'm long past caring."

Another guy opens his dads locker, to find some of his high school trophies and awards. There wasn't a dry eye in the theatre at that moment.

It works so much better than the film that shows the parent that kept the kids room just the same, with all the trophies and posters on the wall. I mean, once I went to college and moved out, my mom was thrilled to throw out my basketball trophies and make it a guest bedroom all done up in pink.

The movie does have a few flaws.

At times, it seemed more like a TV movie. Other times, I thought characters would've handled things different than they did. And not all the jokes worked.

The ending, with Sweeney riding up on the motorcycle, rivals the cheesy ending of An Officer and a Gentleman (minus their horrid theme song being played in the background). At that point, though, we're so rooting for Sweeney's character (and "long past caring" about a few cheesy moments in a film we're so emotionally invested in).

It's just nice to see actor we loved in Memphis Belle, Fire in the Sky, Gardens of Stone (one of my favorite war pictures still), and Eight Man Out (my favorite Shoeless Joe Jackson still).

Sweeney wrote and directed this picture as well as starring. I'm hoping he continues down this path.

I'm a little bummed that during the credits, when my vegetarian girlfriend might be glancing at the screen to see if any alligators were hurt during the filming - I'm wondering if the beautiful Plymouth Fury was hurt during the filming.

The classic Ferrari in Ferris Beuller that took a dive, turned out to be four kit cars built right here in El Cajon. I'm worried the Fury in this movie was destroyed in the filming. That alone deserves Sweeney to be hunted down by the furious Fury in Christine!

I'm giving this movie a B-.

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  • Rating: 4 of 5