What Happens in Vegas – Review

Should stay in Vegas

Image Courtesy of IMPawards.com

Director: Tom Vaughan
Notable Cast:
Cameron Diaz, Ashton Kutcher, Queen Latifah, Dennis Miller, Dennis Farina, Lake Bell, Rob Corddry

When it comes to being a quality romantic comedy, the second and third acts of What Happens in Vegas are two of the best acts in years in terms of writing and character development. While it follows the usual romantic comedy clichés and plot developments, it’s done so remarkably well that the requisite ending leaves us feeling good about it all. The romantic comedy is a hard genre to do well, and What Happens in Vegas finishes up so well that a god awful opening act ruins most of the good will it develops later on.

Jack (Ashton Kutcher) recently has been fired by his father from the family business for being a slacker de jour. Joy (Cameron Diaz) was recently dumped by her fiancée in spectacularly embarrassing fashion. When Jack convinces his attorney friend Hater (Rob Corddry) to go to Vegas to let off some steam, and Joy as well by her respective best friend Tipper (Lake Bell), Joy and Jack meet up in equally amusing fashion before doing the one thing every parent dreads of their single children: marry a stranger in Las Vegas while markedly intoxicated.

If this wasn’t a complication, Jack has just won $3 million in a slot machine. Trying to split the cash, Judge Whopper (Dennis Miller) sentences the two to six months “hard marriage” where they have to try and be man & wife. If either screws up, they forfeit their share of the money. So what initially starts as a War of the Roses type battle ends up turning both of their opinions around, as they begin to see the better points from the initial images they had of one another. And from that point forward it becomes a great movie, as we get to see two people who initially don’t seem right for one another merge into the sort of movie couple that’s enjoyable to see.

The problem is getting to that point, as the film’s opening act is almost cartoonish in nature. Considering that What Happens in Vegas opens as counter programming to Speed Racer it’s amusing that there’s as much cartoon style shenanigans in this film as the other, especially considering that Speed Racer is based on a cartoon. We’re given characters that are mainly comical exaggerations of who they really are for the first half hour of the film, setting a tone that doesn’t jive with what the rest of the film wants to accomplish.

It’s a shame, really, because the film has a smartly cast group of actors in its main roles. Kutcher is solid as a slacker who needs someone to give him a good kick in the pants while Diaz is her usual neurotic self. Corddry and Bell are perfectly cast in an antagonistic relationship with one another, actively helping both to “win” the money by proving the other demonstrating cause to end the relationship, and even Dennis Miller and Queen Latifah make what are essentially cameo roles into ones with memorable moments. They manage to keep the film entertaining, using the bulk of the film’s physical comedy as well as relational humor to keep the film moving forward.

Given a better opening act, What Happens in Vegas becomes the great film it could’ve been. Instead it goes for the sit-com style antics to set up some quality drama, which doesn’t work on a number of levels. It’s a solid romantic comedy, and the best of the bunch in some time, but isn’t the great one it could’ve been.