What Happens in Vegas

A likable cast, headed by Ashton Kutcher and Cameron Diaz, in their first joint appearance on screen, which begins in Vegas, the setting of the notorious capital of sin and crass, of luck and accident, before moving to the Big Apple, elevates the middling, utterly disposable romantic comedy above the trepidations of its routine plot and predictable denouement.

Adding much needed color and context is the secondary gallery of characters, which includes a terrific line of actors. Though he may be too young, Treat Williams is cast as Kutchers father. The always reliable but vastly underestimated Dennis Farina plays Diazs boss Banger (Dennis Farina), and Jason Sudeikis plays Joys former fianc, Mason. Changing pace from previous roles, Queen Latifah plays the smart marriage counselor, Dr. Twitchell.

What Happens in Vegas should have been released on Valentines Day–it's the perfectly innocuous date movie. Right now, the romantic comedy is positioned as counter-programming to summers early top guns, Iron Man, Speed Racer, and the new Indiana Jones, all of which are male-driven, a situation that will slightly change with the May 30 release of Sex and the City.

Two Manhattan strangers vacationing in Las Vegas, handsomer Jack Fuller (Ashton Kutcher), a wild, fun-loving man, who's just been fired, and Joy McNally (Cameron Diaz), a professional trader, who has just been jilted, “find themselves” married after spending a weekend of parting and hangovers. (The syndrome of was I drunk last night) Sounds familiar Its hard to tell whether screenwriter Dana Box consciously borrowed episodes from the real-life story of a female celeb thats been in the news lately for other scandals.

Jack and Joy decide to go their separate ways, but a lucky streak gets them a $3 million poker jackpot, which means new, major headaches as to who possesses the money, morally and rightfully. Enter Judge Whopper (Dennis Miller) who, disregarding the duos wishes for annulment of their union, decides they should spend six months together trying to make the marriage work. Citing irreconcilable differences of personality, lifestyle (everything), Jack and Joy claim they hate each other, but Judge Whopper insists on forced co-habitation.

With various agendas of their own, friends with names like Hater (Rob Cord dry) and Tipper (Lake Bell) say they want to help. But you wish to say, with such friends, who need enemies as the amigos both help and hinder; in many ways, they making the situation much worse than it is.

The movie begins with snapshots that describe the couple's romantic and occupational lives. Then, the big mishap occurs with a one-drink dare, leading to a cheap wedding ring from a vending machine, though nothing looks cheap or vulgar on a beauty like Diaz.

Conventions dictate that the couple meets in cute circumstances, and in this respect, the movie doesnt disappoint, detailing the encounter in an off-party night. Youre awfully hostile for a girl called Joy, Jack says after they accidentally find themselves in the same hotel room.

Glimpses of the couples professional lives reveal that Joy is about to get promoted from her matter-of-fact boss Banger, (Dennis Farina, in a wonderfully twisty subplot), while possibly for the sake of symmetry, Jack is fired from his job by his supervisor.

The center of the narrative-which is yet another version of the Odd Couple and Opposites Attract, with touches of “War of the Roses” and other comedies of divorce and remarriage–depict how the unhappily wed couple try to sabotage each other, annul the marriage and get hold of the luxurious money, which the Judge had frozen.

Most of the mean-spirited yarn is devoted to the six months of “hard labor” in New York-how the rigid Joy and the relaxed Jack try to wear each other down, mentally, emotionally, and physically, with and without the help of their wacky and eccentric friends.

Predictably, semblance of order and civility quickly escalates into a messy romp, with Jack and Joy letting their guards down, only to deny and regret their conduct/misconduct moments later. We go through all the familiar motions of an essentially contrived plot, struggling to sustain attention until the feuding couple finally realizes what we viewers have known from their very first meeting.

The movie is like a wake-up call for the two central characters, particularly Joy, a femme who has deluded herself that “everything is going the right way,” only to face a series of disappointments, beginning with a fianc who breaks-up with her in what's one of the film's weakest, illogical points, but one that's necessary for the ensuing drive of the comedy.
Writer Fox's point, I think, is to strip Joy off of her seeming security and status.

Director Tom Vaughan tries to compensate for the utterly predictable, overly explicit comedy with fast pacing, physical energy, madcap slapstick, montages, and subplots. In moments, but only in moments, What Happens in Vegas rises above the routine with a real sense of fun and goofiness, the kind of which both performers show ease and facility with.

Theres good chemistry between Kutcher, who looks handsome and comfy in the role, and Diaz, who has always been more compelling in goofy, crazy, off-the-wall comedy than in dramas or actioners. Its good to see Diaz, who has not made a movie in some time, draws on her strengths and even slightly deviate from her established image on screen and off.

Cast

Joy McNally – Cameron Diaz
Jack Fuller – Ashton Kutcher
Steve “Hater” Hader – Rob Corddry
Tipper – Lake Bell
Mason – Jason Sudeikis
Jack Fuller Sr. – Treat Williams
Mrs. Fuller – Deirdre O'Connell
Chong – Michelle Krusiec
Banger – Dennis Farina
Dave the Bear – Zach Galifianakis
Dr. Twitchell – Queen Latifah
Judge Whopper – Dennis Miller

Credits

A 20th Century Fox release of a Fox and Regency Enterprises presentation of a 21 Laps/Mosaic Media Group production.
Produced by Michael Aguilar, Shawn Levy, Jimmy Miller.
Executive producers, Arnon Milchan, Joe Caracciolo Jr., Dean Georgaris.
Directed by Tom Vaughan.
Screenplay: Dana Fox.
Camera: Matthew F. Leonetti.
Editor: Matthew Friedman.
Music: Christophe Beck; music supervisor, Deva Anderson.
Production designer: Stuart Wurtzel.
Art director: Steven Graham.
Set decorator: Susan Bode-Tyson.
Costume designer: Renee Ehrlich Kalfus.
Sound: Chris Newman.

MPAA rating: PG-13.
Running time: 99 Minutes.