Why is it so hard to find romantic comedies that make us feel the way they did in the 2000s? Ticket to Paradise might be the start of a rom-com renaissance.
By John Farrar
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Leading into the holiday season, many of us love watching cheesy, heart-felt rom-coms. Unfortunately big-budget, quality romantic comedies seem to be few and far between these days. Why is it so hard to find rom-coms that make us feel the way they did back in the 1990s and 2000s? Using the new film Ticket to Paradise as the foundation, we will explore why many fans have been deprived of their favorite genre for so long and if there’s hope for these types of films moving forward.
Ticket to Paradise is a new enemies-to-lovers, second chance romantic comedy starring George Clooney and Julia Roberts. News of the movie immediately sparked interest in all the long-time rom-com fans who have been desperately wanting another cheesy, lighthearted, large-scale romantic comedy. The top comment on the trailer perfectly sums up what many moviegoers have been feeling for years:
A cheesy, late 2000s style rom-com? YES PLEASEEEEEE
David (George Clooney) and his ex-wife Georgie (Julia Roberts) race to Bali, Indonesia, to stop their daughter (Kaitlyn Dever) from marrying a seaweed farmer. As they desperately try to sabotage the wedding, the bickering duo soon find themselves rekindling old feelings that once made them happy together.
If you’re looking for a wholesome, lighthearted romantic comedy that’s easy to digest and will have you leaving the theater feeling warm and fuzzy, Ticket to Paradise will be perfect for you. I didn’t adore this movie the way I did with other modern hits like The Big Sick or Crazy Rich Asians. But it’s clear that I, a 24-year-old guy seeing the movie alone, am not the ideal demographic for this movie to begin with. I’m sure that couples, families, and anyone who can appreciate the two Hollywood icons on screen together will have a blast. Let’s discuss what works in the film and what doesn’t.
The chemistry between George Clooney and Julia Roberts shines; the movie’s best moments are the scenes where they bicker and flirt in equal measure. Thanks to great direction by Ol Parker, who also directed gems like Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, the two stars really feel like a divorced couple that still has some sort of spark between them. We were all hoping the movie would deliver on what the trailer seemed to promise— two of the most beloved actors from the 1990s teaming up for a movie that will make you smile and laugh with the occasional eye roll. Thankfully, it does.
Unfortunately, although the actors have great chemistry, the characters they play, David and Georgia, have few redeeming qualities. During the first half of the film, I found it quite difficult to root for either of them. Both David and Georgia are blatantly rude to each other and the strangers around them. Their harsh personalities were intended to be the catalyst to many of the jokes in the first two acts of the movie, but I found myself not laughing because they were so unlikeable.
I have no problem with harsh humor, but it’s hard to find a particular scenario humorous when both characters involved seem to hate each other. Worse, they participate in a few borderline unethical activities like stealing the wedding rings right before the ceremony, making their daughter feel terrible. After the film's climax, when tensions between the family are at an all-time high, the parents’ perspectives abruptly shift to be much more positive and supportive. The sudden shift felt jarring and didn’t make sense because the event that precipitated the change didn’t feel drastic enough to warrant this radical change in outlook. David never even apologizes to his daughter for sabotaging her wedding and stealing the wedding ring (not a spoiler, it’s in the trailer!). Although the tonal shift felt strange, it did help make the characters more likable, leading to substantially better jokes and more laughs in the last act of the movie.
Although the plot is lacking and the characters aren't always likable, Ticket to Paradise does deliver some great moments for rom-com fans. I mean let’s be real, nobody is going to this movie for an overly deep plot. They just wanna see some cute stuff! When it comes to the romance, it was as cheesy and wholesome as you’d expect. This movie wins the award for the longest “gaze into each others’ eyes” scene I’ve seen all year. Right when I thought the shot was over, it just kept going. My personal favorite scene was the party sequence teased near the end of the trailer. How could you not love seeing drunk George Clooney and Julia Roberts dancing to House of Pain’s Jump Around?
Did Ticket to Paradise deliver what the trailer promised? Absolutely. Is it the next When Harry Met Sally that will lead to a cultural shift and resurgence in massive rom-coms? Not quite. But maybe it doesn’t need to be. Let’s use Ticket to Paradise as a jumping-off point to discuss why these types of movies are so rare nowadays and what to watch if you’re itching for more fantastic rom-coms.
If so many moviegoers are hungry for more romantic comedies, why did they disappear in the first place? As with all things in Hollywood, a profit-driven industry, it comes down to one thing: money. Let’s discuss the three major factors that have played a role in the decline of quality rom-coms and why we might finally be at the beginning of a rom-com renaissance.
There’s a reason one of the first big-budget, mainstream romantic comedies to have a wide theatrical release in months is starring George Clooney (61) and Julia Roberts (54) as opposed to Timothee Chalamet (26) and Zendaya (26). The studio is trying to appeal to the older demographic that will go to the theater to see the iconic actors that they recognize from hits 20 years ago. One of the most-liked comments on the Ticket to Paradise trailer says:
I miss movies like this. And who better than these two to give us that good 2000’s feeling? I’m glad it’s coming to theatres. I love streaming as much as the next person but I’ll still choose a theatre any day.
In a broad sense, it seems as though a lot of moviegoers simply don’t care about rom-coms anymore. That’s not to say there aren’t many people out there who do, but the vocal majority seem to mainly go to the theaters for the next superhero movie or blockbuster action film rather than a more uplifting, contained story like Ticket to Paradise. This could also be a testament to how much more cynical people are today, especially when it comes to their consumption of media. It could also be a natural byproduct of the fact that rom-coms inevitably don’t appeal to as wide of an audience as franchise films or Disney movies, which ultimately makes them less profitable.
Fortunately, people have been showing up to the theaters to support Ticket to Paradise, which has already made $107 million at the worldwide box office on a $60 million budget. While $107 million is certainly not a smashing success yet, this is a promising sign that there’s a hunger for more rom-coms and we can hope it sends a message to movie studios that these films should make a resurgence, especially in theaters.
This brings us to our next major factor in the downfall of big-budget rom-coms.
Although Netflix had trouble competing with Blockbuster during the early 2000s, in 2007 Netflix launched its first streaming product, Watch Now. The introduction of streaming was truly revolutionary at that time. Up until then, if you wanted to watch a movie that you didn’t get to see in theaters, you had to head to your local video store and buy or rent a DVD. As home streaming has become increasingly popular, DVD sales quickly plummeted.
A few months ago a clip of Matt Damon on Hot Ones went viral as he explained how the death of DVDs drastically impacted which types of movies studios would greenlight.
The DVD was a huge part of our business, of our revenue stream, and technology has just made that obsolete. And so, the movies that we used to make, you could afford to not make all of your money when it played in the theater because you knew you had the DVD coming behind the release. And six months later, you’d get a whole ‘nother chunk. It would be like reopening the movie almost. And when that went away, that changed the type of movies we could make.
It’s also important to note that actors sometimes get paid residuals for the movie’s DVD sales. In fact, it’s not uncommon for Hollywood stars to receive upwards of 20% of the total profits generated from DVD sales. Once DVD sales dried up, it became less affordable for studios to pay the actors what they deserve and to take risks on rom-coms and other niche movie genres.
As Bruce Nash, founder and president of Nash Information Services explains, “The big fundamental shift here is that when you look at a film you want to watch, and maybe you missed it in theaters, 10 to 15 years ago, you can buy the DVD or rent from Blockbuster. Now, I’ve got HBO and [the film is] going to be on HBO in a couple months. It’s not worth buying the DVD to watch it. I’ll just wait a bit.”
The rise of streaming has not only drastically changed the revenue stream for movie studios, but also made the consumption of entertainment drastically more affordable, all things considered.
With the price of movie tickets rising every year (it was nearly $16 for a standard movie ticket last night!), it’s increasingly unlikely that an average moviegoer will spend that much on a theater ticket when they could just wait a few months to watch it on a streaming service they already have. For many people, if they’re going to spend the money to go to a theater, they want to see a spectacle. Whether it be a sci-fi of preposterous scale like Dune, or a grand musical like In The Heights, people want to watch something big.
This is why theater subscription services are so important. They allow fans to go see a movie in theaters that they otherwise wouldn’t have paid to see. While some may argue that the quality of content available on a particular streaming service is not great, the sheer number of titles available is unbeatable. For example, Netflix has over 17,000 titles for only $9.99/month! Why spend $15 for a ticket to a movie that might be disappointing when you could just wait three months and put it on your home TV while curled up under a blanket?
Yes! We may be in the midst of a romantic comedy renaissance right now. After a decade of dense, gritty, intense action and thriller films, fans have been craving some straightforward fun at the cinema, and movies like Ticket to Paradise are already proving that to be true! However, the new wave of rom-coms are going to look and feel different than they did in the 90s and 2000s.
As explained by Jessica Sager from Parade, “Romantic comedies, for a long time, were all essentially the same: Conventionally attractive white boy meets conventionally attractive white girl, hijinks ensue, then they live happily ever after. Two problems with that formula: Audiences aren't all white, and they get bored with the same thing over and over. Viewers craved more personal stories, as well as cultural diversity on their screens.”
While we’ve been in this romantic comedy lull over the last 10 years, outliers like The Big Sick, Crazy Rich Asians, and Palm Springs are proof that culturally diverse rom-coms with unique premises can still perform incredibly well.
The Big Sick made $56 million in box office sales on a $5 million dollar budget. Crazy Rich Asians made $238 million on a $30 million budget. Palm Springs broke the record for the biggest sale ever at Sundance Film Festival ($17,000,000.69) and subsequently blew up on Hulu during the early days of the pandemic lockdowns.
Only time will tell whether new romantic comedies will continue to be released directly to streaming or if they’ll make a return to theaters. For now, all we can do as moviegoers is to go to the theater to support the movies we want to see more of. So get out there and go watch Ticket to Paradise with your significant other, friends, or parents!
If you’re interested in more of the best modern rom-coms that feel unique and exciting, check out:
Long Shot Journalist Fred Flarsky reunites with his childhood crush, Charlotte Field, now one of the most influential women in the world. As she prepares to make a run for the Presidency, Charlotte hires Fred as her speechwriter — much to the dismay of her trusted advisers.
About Time The night after another unsatisfactory New Year's party, Tim's father tells his son that the men in his family have always had the ability to travel through time. They can't change history, but they can change what happens and has happened in their own lives. Thus begins the start of a lesson in learning to appreciate life itself as it is, as it comes, and most importantly, the people living alongside us.
Obvious Child An immature, newly unemployed comic must navigate the murky waters of adulthood after her fling with a graduate student results in an unplanned pregnancy.
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