- Rated PG-13
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All photos © 20th Century Fox
Reviewed by David Medsker
espite the fact that “What Happens in Vegas” derives its premise from two subpar sources – namely “The Break-Up” and “Sour Grapes” – the movie is absolutely better than it has a right to be, due in large part to its supporting cast. Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher may make for a cute one-sheet, but neither has the ability to carry a movie. Luckily, they are surrounded by people who can carry it for them.
Kutcher is Jack, a non-goal-oriented furniture maker who’s ultimately fired by his own father (Treat Williams) for his lackadaisical ways. Across town is Diaz’s Joy, a Type A+ trader who’s dumped by her jackass fiancé (Jason Sudeikis) at his own surprise birthday party. Both Jack and Joy convince their best friends, Hater and Tipper (Rob Corddry and Lake Bell, respectively), to join them for a weekend of recklessness and fun in Las Vegas. The four meet up when the hotel books them all into the same room, and after several drinks – and a seizure-inducing montage – Jack and Joy wake up married. Both realize it’s a mistake and plan to annul the marriage right away, until Jack uses one of Joy’s quarters on the slot machine she had been playing, and wins a $3 million jackpot. The judge residing over their divorce (Dennis Miller) decides to teach them a lesson: he freezes the assets and forces them to “six months of hard marriage,” complete with weekly appointments with a marriage counselor (Queen Latifah). At first, Jack and Joy do everything they can to annoy, then entrap, each other (“There’s a hot girl party in my apartment. That happens, right?”), but the game soon becomes even more complicated when they realize that underneath the hostility lies some genuine affection.
Two people reluctantly forced to co-exist while tempting and teasing the other. Sounds just like “The Break-Up,” right? Yes, but the crucial difference is that where Vince and Jen’s games became mean-spirited and cruel, “Vegas” keeps everything nice and fluffy, and that suits the leads perfectly. The problem, of course, is that you know exactly how the story is going to end from the first frame, so there is nothing in the way of suspense.
That is where the supporting characters come in to save the day. Diaz and Kutcher aren’t terrible (though the former definitely outshines the latter), but each has to know that they were the studio’s ninth or tenth choices to play these roles. Fortunately, the studio fared much better when rounding out the rest of the cast. Dennis Miller’s hilarious turn as the judge is easily his finest work to date, and whatever scenes Miller doesn’t steal are stolen by Dennis Farina, who plays, well, the same role he always plays, but here it’s as Joy’s boss. Even comedian Zach Galifianakis – whose character name is Dave the Bear – gets his chance to shine. Bell needs some time to warm up (we’re guessing it’s fatigue from shooting the god-awful “Over Her Dead Body”), but she eventually delivers a couple well-placed jabs, as does Corddry, whose character is a real-life Lionel Hutz. It’s as if sophomore screenwriter Dana Fox was so concerned about balance that she gave all of her best lines to the bit players. While it’s a good thing to make sure your story isn’t lopsided towards the leads, she went a tad too far in the other direction here.
There are several things that are wrong with “What Happens in Vegas,” but the end product, amazingly, trumps its flaws. It’s like the movie version of that couple you’re friends with, the one where she enables and indulges his worst qualities when she should be kicking him square in the kitten. Yet the relationship, dysfunctional though it may be, works. Sometimes it’s best not to ask why something works but simply accept that it works, and move on. This is one of those times.
Single-Disc DVD Review:
The DVD extras to “What Happens in Vegas” show a decidedly different sense of humor than what dominates the movie. Zach Galifianakis conducts an awkward (but funny) interview of director Tom Vaughan, while Rob Corddry’s ambulance-chasing lawyer Hader shoots a poor, low-budget commercial promoting his services to “gay homosexuals” looking for a divorce. Vaughan also contributes an audio commentary with editor Matt Friedman, while Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher interview each other about dealing with the opposite sex. There are several extended and deleted scenes – the bar scene is easily the best – but the biggest surprise will be the gag reel, which would earn a hard ‘R’ rating from the MPAA. Gag reels are usually dull, but between Corddry, Galifianakis and Dennis Miller, this reel is much more than just flubbing lines.