What Happens in Vegas (2008) / Comedy-Romance

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for some sexual and crude content, and language, including a drug reference
Running time: 99 min.

Cast: Ashton Kutcher, Cameron Diaz, Rob Corddry, Lake Bell, Jason Sudeikis, Queen Latifah, Treat Williams, Dierdre O'Connell, Dennis Farina, Michelle Krusiec, Zach Galifianakis, Dennis Miller
Director: Tom Vaughan

Screenplay: Dana Fox
Review published September 2, 2008

A two-word review to describe What Happens in Vegas: Shit happens.

New Yorker Ashton Kutcher (Open Season, The Guardian) stars as Jack Fuller, a bachelor with commitment issues who loses his job at his father's (Williams, Miss Congeniality 2) company and decides to travel to Las Vegas with his best bud Hater to blow off some steam.  Cameron Diaz (Shrek the Third, The Holiday) is an upwardly mobile stock trader on the fast track to success, Joy McNally, who also happens to be from New York, and also happens to be visiting Vegas with her best friend Tipper (Bell, "Boston Legal") to help her forget the man who broke off his engagement with her (Sudeikis, "Saturday Night Live").  Happenstance occurs when both sets are booked in the same room, and though they initially don't get along, they soon get tipsy, then smashing drunk, and wake up the next morning to find that, sometime during their night of drunken debauchery, they have gotten married.  A divorce is decided upon in short order, but as fate would have it, they would hit a $3 million jackpot in the casino that will complicate the break-up since both think the pot is rightfully theirs (Jack plays the winning coin, a quarter that is Joy's).  Their luck turns sour when they get the wrong kind of judge (Miller, The Net), who insists that they give their marriage a try for six months, and have to live together.  With millions at stake, 6 months doesn't seem too long, but both parties are trying desperately to get the other to request an early dissolution so the other will get full claim.

What Happens in Vegas is a mostly unbearable go-with-the-flow, make-up-new-rules comedy that takes an already contrived concept by Dana Fox (The Wedding Date), a mix of Sour Grapes, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and War of the Roses, while director Tom Vaughan (Starter for 10, Final Demand) allows his not-terribly-funny actors ad-lib all over it with lewd and crude lows (watching the flubs on the special features section of the DVD gives evidence that much of it had been made up as it went along).  With nothing witty to say, the creative team have little option than to go for progressively louder, cruder and sillier, all the while trying very hard to preserve the precious PG-13 rating that it barely keeps.  If characters hurling objects or insults at one another for 90 minutes is your idea of a swell time, you'll obviously like it more than I ever could.  These things could be funny (like the aforementioned War of the Roses) if you establish your characters as individually likeable but collectively detestable.  They only accomplish the latter, as we never like any of the characters enough to care whether or not any of them achieve the happy ending they seek, and furthermore, it's too predictable to have any sort of rooting interest in the outcome of the divorce court case.

The jokes fall flat time and again.  You can see one punch line telegraphed when you find out that Joy's prick of a boss is named Richard Banger (Farina, Paparazzi).  It's hard to believe that no one in the company was as "clever" enough as jack to realize that that means his name is "Dick Banger."  Banger's comeback is to call Jack, "Jack Off", which leads to repeated uses of the insults as the humor value of the next several scenes.  Dennis Miller's judge character's name is "Judge R.D. Whopper".  I'm not certain what the "R.D." is for, but the Judge Whopper part is the oldest joke in the book about former "People's Court" judge, Wapner.  There's a scene where a bladder-full Jack takes a leak in the sink, pretty much stealing a similar scene in the yet again aforementioned War of the Roses.  He later scratches his scrotum while they share a bowl of popcorn, then, oddly, punishes her for complaining about it by pouring the hot, oily snack down his pants.  That these are supposed to be the funny scenes shows how far off it is in coming up with the quality of laughs any comedy should establish before getting a green light.

The storyline is one farfetched contrivance after another, starting off with the mix up at one of the better hotels in Vegas, whose staff are too incompetent and easily swayed by the weakest of arguments to believe that they could ever find a job, much less retain one.  It's equally difficult to believe that both drunken parties would consent to a marriage that neither wants, and in one of the weirder phony laws to be introduced to a film's plot, Whopper's assertion that he wants to see if the parties can make it in their marriage before granting the divorce, and he actually hires a psychiatrist (Latifah, The Perfect Holiday) to monitor their progress and growth.  How does such a terrible idea for a story get pitched and earn a multimillion dollar OK by any studio?  I guess having Kutcher and Diaz together was enough to get their fans in the door., no need to ruin the appeal by offering anything else to throw off the balance.

 Qwipster's rating:

©2008 Vince Leo