Reviews

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
Website

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.
4
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.

Books

New Translation of Balzac's 'Lost Illusions' Captivates

More than just a tale of one man's fall, Balzac's Lost Illusions charts how literature becomes another commodity in a system that demands backroom deals, moral compromise, and connections.

Music

Protomartyr - "Processed by the Boys" (Singles Going Steady)

Protomartyr's "Processed By the Boys" is a gripping spin on reality as we know it, and here, the revolution is being televised.

Music

Go-Go's Bassist Kathy Valentine Is on the "Write" Track After a Rock-Hard Life

The '80s were a wild and crazy time also filled with troubles, heartbreak and disappointment for Go-Go's bass player-guitarist Kathy Valentine, who covers many of those moments in her intriguing dual project that she discusses in this freewheeling interview.

Music

New Brain Trajectory: An Interview With Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree

Two guitarists, Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree make an album largely absent of guitar playing and enter into a bold new phase of their careers. "We want to take this wherever we can and be free of genre restraints," says Lee Ranaldo.

Books

'Trans Power' Is a Celebration of Radical Power and Beauty

Juno Roche's Trans Power discusses trans identity not as a passageway between one of two linear destinations, but as a destination of its own.

Music

Yves Tumor Soars With 'Heaven to a Tortured Mind'

On Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor relishes his shift to microphone caressing rock star. Here he steps out of his sonic chrysalis, dons some shiny black wings and soars.

Music

Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras' tētēma Don't Hit the Mark on 'Necroscape'

tētēma's Necroscape has some highlights and some interesting ambiance, but ultimately it's a catalog of misses for Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras.

Music

M. Ward Offers Comforting Escapism on 'Migration Stories'

Although M. Ward didn't plan the songs on Migration Stories for this pandemic, they're still capable of acting as a balm in these dark hours.

Music

Parsonsfield Add Indie Pop to Their Folk on 'Happy Hour on the Floor'

Happy Hour on the Floor is a considerable departure from Parsonsfield's acclaimed rustic folk sound signaling their indie-pop orientation. Parsonsfield remind their audience to bestow gratitude and practice happiness: a truly welcomed exaltation.

Music

JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.

Music

All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he would shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means one of the brightest stars in the power-pop universe has suddenly dimmed.

Music

Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.

Music

Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.

Music

Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.

Film

'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.

Music

Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.

Books

Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews
Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.