Cameron Diaz as Joy McNally
Ashton Kutcher as Jack Fuller
Rob Corddry as Hater
Lake Bell as Tipper
Jason Sudeikis as Mason
Treat Williams as Jack Fuller Sr.
Deirdre O’Connell as Mrs. Fuller
Michelle Krusiec as Chong
Dennis Farina as Banger
Zach Galifianakis as Dave the Bear
Queen Latifah as Dr. Twitchell
Krysten Ritter as Kelly
Andrew Daly as Curtis
Directed by Tom Vaughn
“What Happens in Vegas” is your basic Hollywood formula romantic comedy, painfully predictable and going for the most obvious laughs, while mostly failing to be very funny.
On a vacation in Vegas to get over her break-up, stockbroker Joy McNally (Cameron Diaz) inadvertently hooks up with unemployed slacker Jack Fuller (Ashton Kutcher) after a night of drunken debauchery. Before they can get their drunken marriage annulled, Jack wins $3 million in a slot machine, and a judge forces them to live together for six months before he’ll agree to split the money between them.
You have to have at least a small amount of sympathy for the poor overworked critic who goes into a movie like “What Happens in Vegas” knowing exactly what to expect from the commercials, praying that they’re wrong, only to sit through another formula-driven comedy with a ridiculous premise that fails to deliver on the laughs promised by its very genre.
We’ve seen this sort of opposites-eventually-attract romantic comedy far too many times in the recent past, but this comedy vehicle introduces a new spin-off to the “meet cute” genre with something we’ll call “meet Vegas.” There’s certainly a danger of a movie like this being a 99-minute advertisement for Las Vegas, adding to the erroneous myths of it being all boozing and easy sex to help you forget all your problems, and it’s surprising when the movie only spends ten to fifteen minutes in the city. Joy McNally and Jack Fuller’s problems are only beginning when they’re double-booked into the same room and one harmless drink turns into a night of partying, and before you can say “Jason Alexander,” they’re married.
Essentially, the movie is exactly what the trailer promises, a ludicrous and unrealistic premise mandated by the desire to bring these two unlikely people together out of pure sadism, both to them and to us. For what other reason would a judge force two people who clearly don’t get along and got married while drunk to stay together for six months rather than granting them a divorce, splitting up the money and being done with it?
It’s hard to say whether Diaz and Kutcher are slumming, essentially playing the same characters they’ve played many times before, and it’s hard to separate the actors from their characters because of this. Who knows whether the movie could have been better with lesser-known actors in the roles rather than celebrities, but it certainly couldn’t have been much worse, as they embarrass themselves with jokes that everyone has seen or heard before.
Most of the movie consists of the two of them trying to coexist, arguing and finding ways to one-up each other to force the other one out of the marriage to get all the money. Most of the jokes are so mean-spirited that they’re rarely funny, relying on many of the obvious stand-bys based on the surface-level differences between men and women, gags we’ve seen in countless sitcoms over the years. Why someone might have felt that arguments about whether to put the toilet seat up or down is new, original or worthy of a feature film is mystifying.
As is far too often the case with the genre, the ubiquitous best friends steal the movie, and that’s the case here as Rob Corddry and Lake Bell offer some of the movie’s funniest moments, including a welcome callback before the end credits. Dennis Farina also offers some good bits as Joy’s boss who puts her into competition at her job for a coveted promotion, one of the better side subplots. The cast is rounded out by Dennis Miller as the judge, Queen Latifah indeed slumming as the duo’s marriage counselor, Treat Williams as Jack’s father, and Jason Sudeikis as Joy’s former fiancé who conveniently reenters her life once she’s married to Jack.
Tom Vaughn proved his worth as a director with his previous indie “Starter for 10,” but he does little to elevate the material above the typical formulas including lots of comedy montages driven by their soundtrack. One can certainly commend him for keeping the film on course rather than watering down the plot with far too many characters and subplots, plus it does get better as it steers away from the mean pranks and the bickering, but it’s also where the film starts approaching its highly predictable and ultimately cheesy outcome.
The Bottom Line:
If you don’t have a strong tolerance for Ashton Kutcher and Cameron Diaz, watching this movie will be a losing battle from the get-go, but even moreso, if like me you’ve seen every single “meet cute” romantic comedy made in the last five years, there’s nothing new here that makes the movie worthwhile. At its best, “What Happens in Vegas” is like “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” without the action or “The Break-Up” with less depth–if that’s even possible–though thankfully, it never quite hits the emasculating lows of a “Failure to Launch.”