What Happens in Vegas

Sam Maclean

As the saying (sort of) goes, what happens in Vegas should stay in Vegas -- so, too with this film.

What Happens in Vegas

Director: Tom Vaughan
Cast: Cameron Diaz, Ashton Kutcher, Rob Corddry, Treat Williams, Lake Bell, Dennis Farina, Queen Latifah
Distributor: Fox
MPAA rating: PG-13
Studio: 20th Century Fox
First date: 2008
US DVD Release Date: 2008-08-26

One night, in the city of neon lights, two people meet, get completely trashed and marry, of course regretting it, and hating each other in the morning. Jack (Ashton Kutcher) is the first—fired by his dad, tied to no one, screwing some random chick who shows up at his door about once a week, and with no real ambition at all; Joy (Cameron Diaz) is the other—dumped by her fiancé at his surprise party (while the guests, hiding behind furniture and the like, listen uncomfortably as he talks about the couple’s sex life: “I love that thing you do with my balls!”).

Both find their lives at a standstill (read: they suck, their lives really suck), and so they head to the place where “you can forget all your worries” (silly me, I thought that was “downtown”). Here that place is Vegas, Las Vegas, where our two main characters soon end up.

So now we’re in Vegas, where the nasty—in this case inebriated marriage, but also what you were thinking, too—takes place.

Jack takes the trip with balding pal Hater (Rob Corddry); Joy with venomous compatriot Tipper (Lake Bell). The two parties meet due to a booking error—they’re given the same room—and so they’re forced to spend some time together—in this case, that means competing in a series of one-upmanship cons, in which they act angry about the mix-up, and get more and more free stuff from the apologetic counterperson. Jack gets a boatload of tickets to various shows, and passes to clubs and such, so it’s off for a night on the town.

At first, Jack and Joy don’t get along at all—and their two friends completely despise each other. But Jack, who’s clearly attracted to Joy, manages to hit a touchy subject, calling out Joy’s need to plan everything—the same complaint her fiancé had. It’s believable enough that Joy would decide to spend some more time with Jack, in an effort to prove (to herself) her spontaneity; and it’s understandable that Jack—a womanizer, lady-killer, what have you—would be able to peg what kind of woman Joy is by only spending a few minutes with her. Over the course of the night, they both get increasingly drunk—mandatory bar-slide included—and wake up the next morning as husband and wife.

Of course, neither party is thrilled about the marriage, but both figure that the other consented, and so they both wonder how they’ll break it to the other that they want out. Joy discusses the situation with Tipper in the elevator on the way down, while Jack has the same conversation with Hater in the lobby.

They eventually discover that neither is happy with the arrangement, and agree to a quick divorce—crisis averted, so it seems. But the idea of being dumped again, even mutually, hits another soft spot with Joy, and so they argue and, in a matter of moments, begin to hate each other. At last Joy storms off, but leaves a quarter behind, which Jack shoves in the slot machine Joy had been working at, and… jackpot. It’s at this point, where Jack is in tears of joy, holding one of those giant-sized checks we can only dream about, that Joy reminds her new husband, “What’s mine is yours, baby.”

Up until this point, this goofy little rom-com worked for me; it doesn’t pretend to be anything more than it is, and it develops logically enough. However, all of that ends with the following courtroom scene: Honorable Judge Dennis Miller presiding (haven’t seen that guy for a while). The case is between Jack and Joy, in regards to how the money—a cool three million dollars—should be split between them.

The Judge is none to happy with these two young’uns ruining the sanctity of marriage, and so he delivers a sentence befitting of a bad Saturday Night Live skit: “six months hard marriage.” Yuck. Just typing that sends a twinge of disgust down my back. Really? Hard marriage? That’s the best you could come up with? I guess that’s what you get when your screenwriter’s only other credit is that dopey, yet thematically similar—both deal with phony relationships—Debra Messing vehicle, The Wedding Date.

What Happens In Vegas should have stayed in Vegas, where there were at least lots of shiny neon lights and pretty people to distract us from the narcissistic and mean Joy and Jack, who were at least drunk and loose enough to be tolerable on that one wild night. To watch them endure court-ordered married life (there’s that twinge again) is no fun at all, and to be asked to endure one flat and uninspired act of sabotage after another, is even less fun.

From toilet seat stealing (splashing noises will ensue), to diluting Joy’s daily smoothie; from starting a sexy girl party in their living room (if he cheats, she’ll get all the money), to inviting Jack’s parents over for dinner. At least though, if What Happens In Vegas had turned mean, and stayed mean, then it wouldn’t have been formulaic, and predictable. Instead, uh, it’s predictable.

In this game of tug-of-war (not with the characters, but with the audience) we’re asked to root for these bitter characters to get together in the end, because how else can you end such an affair? It’s all pretty inoffensive and light, but it’s also not very funny, and very forgettable.

Basically, there’s an audience for this kind of unlikely fare, and it’s not really me. This is far from the irredeemable sleaziness of, say, every single Matthew McConaughey vehicle; it’s much more on the level of the over-praised, equally as difficult to swallow (in terms of its central conceit) Definitely, Maybe. Honestly though, I’ll take any one of the many talented actresses in Definitely, Maybeover the screechy Cameron Diaz.

Features on the disc include a talk with Cameron and Ashton, where they discuss characteristically vapid and inconsequential queries about love (appropriate for this film), and shot in annoyingly distracting, shape shifting split screen—their faces, apparently, must be on screen at the exact same time, and in close-ups. We also get Ashton relating the time-honored adage “bros before hoes” to his made-up female counterpart, “chicks before dicks”. Worse still, there’s the most unfunny ten minutes of screen-time you’re likely to see all year—that is, if you skipped the Norm MacDonald segment in the Comedy Central’s Roast o f Bob Sagett.

There's a short extra with one of the bit-part actors from the movie, the shockingly unfunny Zach Galifianakis, who pesters his director with random questions for what seems like forever. Then there’s an equally unfunny bit from Rob Corddry—called From The Law Firm of Stephen J. Hater—a fake advertisement for his gay divorce law firm. There’s also a gag reel, in which we see Cameron having a very difficult time getting out the line, “movie theater butter”, and some deleted/extended scenes, none of which add any insight into these characters or develop the plot in any interesting ways, so their absence from the film isn’t missed.

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