Movie review: 'Ticket to Paradise' is too toxic to laugh

Julia Roberts and George Clooney star in "Ticket to Paradise." Photo courtesy of Universal Studios
1 of 5 | Julia Roberts and George Clooney star in "Ticket to Paradise." Photo courtesy of Universal Studios

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 19 (UPI) -- Ticket to Paradise, in theaters Friday, isn't clever enough to make its bickering couple endearing. Despite the charisma of Julia Roberts and George Clooney, the plot is way too toxic to be funny.

Long-divorced David (Clooney) and Georgia (Roberts) fight when they attend their daughter, Lily's (Kaitlyn Dever) college graduation and badmouth each other to anyone who will listen.


When Lily gets engaged to Gede (Maxime Bouttier) on vacation in Bali, David and Georgia must see each other again at the wedding. They intend to stop Lily from making the mistake they feel they made marrying each other.

The general premise of "bickering parents interfere in their daughter's relationship" may sound cute at first. It only takes a moment's consideration to realize the "joke" is these parents want to sabotage their daughter.


Many parents may disapprove of their children's partners, but there's a long way between that and actively working against their children.

In any version of Father of the Bride, the father has reservations but never outright sabotaged the wedding. And the Steve Martin and Andy Garcia versions were plenty sarcastic, but still portrayed a loving family.

Even if Ticket to Paradise gives its characters the predictable happy rom-com ending, the premise is still unpleasant. This toxic couple brings their toxicity to their daughter.

Clooney and Roberts have chemistry delivering rapid fire banter, but the script doesn't give them material to support it. Georgia and David often have the same idea, but David won't accept it from her.

A common joke of David's amounts to "wouldn't it be great if something bad happened to Georgia?" At one point he mocks Georgia's unfamiliarity with a kitchen, because damn those women with their careers who don't know how to cook anymore.

Ticket to Paradise also thinks it's hilarious to show how weird the rich Americans think island culture is. Gede's father even pretends to make up an outlandish custom to scare David, but the script by Daniel Pipski and director Ol Parker enjoys exploiting Western culture's fears and prejudices further.


Gede's family loves to speak their language but tell David and Georgia they're saying something innocuous. One family member compares Georgia to a horse as a compliment, because the filmmakers think that's a wacky thing for islanders to do.

The best thing that can be said for Ticket to Paradise is that the island shenanigans eventually, finally, calm Georgia and David down. They're still toxic but at least they're a little less aggressive towards the end of the film.

There might be a dark comedy version of this premise that could work. Ticket to Paradise definitely wants it to be fun and lovable.

Roberts does her trademark laugh and Clooney his signature smirk. Smiling through it can't hide the toxicity and only makes it more insidious.

Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001 and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012. Read more of his work in Entertainment.

George Clooney, Julia Roberts attend 'Ticket to Paradise' premiere in Los Angeles

Stars George Clooney (R) and Julia Roberts attend the premiere of romantic comedy "Ticket to Paradise" at the Regency Village Theatre in Los Angeles on October 17, 2022. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

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