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  What Happens in Vegas

Starring: Cameron Diaz, Ashton Kutcher, Rob Corddry, Lake Bell, Dennis Miller

Directed by: Tom Vaughan

Produced by: Michael Aguilar, Shawn Levy, Jimmy Miller

Written by: Dana Fox

Distributor: 20th Century Fox


     Is there really any legitimate reason for me to be reviewing What Happens in Vegas? In truth, there is probably only one: that this write-up will garner significant readership because the movie will rake in a healthy gross at the box-office.

     The fact of the matter is that no negative review of the movie will discourage any potential viewer from seeing it (nor would a positive one encourage many of those already not interested to check it out). As a result, to review What Happens in Vegas seems a bit of a useless task. The studio, 20th Century Fox, has intentionally made barely any mention of what the film is about in its promotional materials—merely touting a “Cameron vs. Ashton”-angle (referring to Diaz and Kutcher, of course) on billboards and bus-posters—and for good reason. Everybody that flocks to see What Happens in Vegas this weekend will do so only because they like its two leads. That the moronic plot involves the two getting married in a drunken night-on-the-town flurry across Las Vegas will not be of anyone’s concern. The picture has a built-in audience.

     Indeed, What Happens in Vegas is very much “The Cameron and Ashton Show”, and the viewer’s enjoyment of the film will likely reflect how appealing that idea sounds to them. For the most part, Kutcher and Diaz are free to do whatever they want here so long as it exists within the script’s loose plot-mold. After getting married for reasons only explained by inebriation, his Jack wins the $3 million jackpot on a slot-machine with her Joy’s quarter. A debate over the cash ensues, as does one over the marriage, with a Dennis Miller-played judge freezing the green away in a bank until Jack and Joy put forth a legitimate six-month-effort to work their newfound civil union out.

     So Jack and Joy, very much opposed to the idea of bonding but eager to claim their fair share of the $3 million, spend six months in each other’s company, regularly attending sessions of therapy (with none other than Queen Latifah, of course!) scheduled at the court’s order. Kutcher and Diaz pout and speak rapidly about how excruciating the other is for the film’s entire second act. And, rather predictably, the exercise becomes unbearable for those who are not mega-fans of either star. I like both Kutcher and Diaz for what their limited talents are worth, but the complete self-indulgence that they both exercise here in representing the conflict between Jack and Joy is inexcusable: they are playing hammed-up versions of themselves, not written characters.

     With that all being said, What Happens in Vegas actually makes something of a pleasant turnaround in its final act. As expected, Jack and Joy begin to develop an actual relationship after being forced to spend so much time together. Minute by minute—and not without the help of a substantial helping of movie magic—they fall in love and begin to act like a real married couple. (Ohmygod, right!?) Against all odds, this is the best part of the movie. Despite the leads’ tendency to totally overplay the movie’s internal conflicts, they show an uncanny ability to make the ultimate romance achieved—ironically the most unrealistic thing about the movie—feel authentic. The story-thread is entirely welcome amidst the film’s disastrous whole and, I admit, I fell for Diaz and Kutcher’s more relaxed, less showy approach to the passages that it involved.

     Regardless of its unexpectedly strong last-minute comeback, however, What Happens in Vegas remains utterly inept on the whole by the time the credits roll. Jack and Joy’s well-executed romance ultimately only allows the movie to exist as a mere failure rather than as a Herculean disaster. I’m not speaking hyperbolically when I claim that, given its godawful first hour, What Happens in Vegas’ final act would’ve practically had to have rivaled that of Citizen Kane for the film to have earned my wholehearted recommendation in the end.

-Danny Baldwin, Bucket Reviews

Review Published on: 5.7.2008

Screened on: 5.3.2008 at the Pacific Glendale 18 in Glendale, CA.


What Happens in Vegas is rated PG-13 and runs 98 minutes.

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