What'll a "Ticket to Heaven" get you? About an hour's worth of anti-cult progaganda and 47 minutes worth of feature film.
"Ticket to Heaven" wants to do good. It wants to save young people from the living hells of the bizarre "religions" that have arisen in recent decades. In its altruism, "Ticket" painstakingly follows Toronto schoolteacher David Kapell (Nick Manusco), who loses his girl and travels to California, cult country and land of perpetual granola, to become an unsuspecting recruit of the fanatical Children of Heaven.
His conversion is hard to swallow, considering that he's bright, an apparent atheist and has no desire to meet his maker. But if you're the type who's looking for a lot of structure in life and might mistake a plump Korean for the second coming, better see how it happened. David is met at the airport by a friend named Karl and two terminally cheerful blonds. Right off, you know these people have all the depth of a frying pan and the brains of a blender, but David's lost in thought and no alarms go off. By the time he's been eating nothing but trail mix for five days, shared guilt with a passel of celibate sectists, slept but little and sung the "Red Red Robin Comes Bob-Bob-Bobbing Along," one too many times, he's lost it. The old synapses aren't snapping shut the way they used to.
It's hard to believe anybody would fall for this infernal hype. One too many happy faces and most folks call a halt to the love bombing. But, say those who've been there, it's all accurate -- the brainwashing, the diet, down to the song titles. Film production notes claim even the cast nearly went bonkers for Father, the "Messiah from Jakarta" presented as the ticket in "Ticket."
All the same, Kapell just didn't seem emotionally ripe for the Elysian fields. But then neither does his friend Larry, an amateur stand-up comic played by Saul Rubinek, who comes along in time to put some motion in the picture. Larry is a delight as he tries to retrieve David, risking the cult's arena of friendly persuasion, where he nearly becomes one with Father thanks from a lack of protein and too much sharing. Fortunately, Larry escapes the cultists and with the help of Kapell's family and friends kidnaps David.
The only salvation for all concerned becomes a hard-nosed deprogrammer named Linc Strunk, played by R.H. Thomson in a commendable performance. The acting is quite fine all the way down the line, and there's really nothing amateurish about the film -- it's just that they had a devil of a time with the pacing early on.
If the spirit moves you, buy a "Ticket to Heaven," but be careful about who sells you a flower at the airport. TICKET TO HEAVEN -- At the K-B Cerberus.