The story imagined by screenwriter Dana Fox, although nothing we have never seen before, is quite entertaining. A successful but controlling girl (Cameron Diaz) gets dumped by her fiancé and a young irresponsible bachelor (Ashton Kutcher) gets fired by his dad. They both end up in Vegas, party like rock stars, and wake up the next morning in typical Vegas form: married to each other and extremely hung-over. As they bicker their way towards an annulment, they hit the jackpot and win three million dollars. Undecided as to who should claim the money, their marriage suddenly becomes their greatest asset and divorce their greatest threat. Bickering, sabotaging and downright evildoing ensues, worthy of How to lose a Guy in 10 days and almost as sadistic as The War of the Roses; the ending needn’t be mentioned.
Watching Diaz and Kutcher make their lives miserable is extremely entertaining and oddly enough, really funny. Diaz is perfection as usual, looking like a gorgeous movie star but coming off as one of the guys and Ashton, although still mistaking facial ticks and body quirks for acting, manages to be likable in this movie. The supporting cast featuring Queen Latifah, Dennis Miller, Dennis Farina, Lake Bell and Rob Corddry is hilarious, and look out for Michelle Krusiec as Chong, Diaz’s nemesis at work, as she skillfully delivers one punch line after the next.
Before I get ahead of myself though, let me make something clear: this movie is not great, in fact it is not even good. If it weren’t for the cast’s irresistible charm, What Happens in Vegas would not even be worth a thought. Technically speaking, this movie is a dud. The direction is unimaginative at best. Tom Vaughan has managed for the first time in American cinema history to make Vegas look tame and boring. Even Leaving Las Vegas makes the city of lights look more fun than this. Moreover, his montage sequences are ineffective, his musical choices are overdone and his constant inability to image Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher’s contagious energy and electrifying chemistry is disconcerting. His editing choices serve more as a nuisance to his actors’ comedic timing than anything else. Undecided between directing a campy movie or a Judd Apatow wannabe comedy, his clumsiness as a director is definitely the weakest link, making of What Happens in Vegas a harmless and indistinguishable romantic comedy instead of a summer smash hit.
What Happens in Vegas is done all wrong. It is a technically embarrassing movie, looking more like an ’80s TV show than a big budget Hollywood production. However, it is a romantic comedy, a film that is supposed to make you giggle, smile, and if you’re lucky, laugh at the beautiful people showcased in the film, not marvel at its technical achievements. On that note, the one thing the producers got right was casting Diaz. Her uncanny ability to gravitate all the attention towards herself makes for great distraction from the terrible executive decisions behind this film and in the end, wins over the audience with giggles, smiles and yes, even laughter.
What Happens in Vegas is kind of like Vegas: an addictive guilty pleasure. When it’s all over and the lights come back on in the movie theatre and show the big grin you have on your face for all to see, you’re going to wish you had stayed at home and spared yourself the embarrassment.
Review by Ralph Arida