DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS

Sunday 27 July 2008


What Happens in Vegas (2008)
Starring: Ashton Kutcher, Cameron Diaz, Rob Corddry, Lake Bell, Dennis Farina, Treat Williams, Queen Latifah


"What Happens in Vegas" was a moderate success against "Iron Man" earlier this summer. Somehow it succeeded solely on the basis of it's genre, because for a romantic comedy, it generates little romance and only a smattering of comedy.

Ashton Kutcher plays Jack Fuller, a ner-do-well, who's just been fired from his woodworking job by his own dad, Joy McNally (Cameron Diaz) is a NYC stock broker who’s just been dumped by her fiancé. They both decide to drown their sorrows out with a debaucherous trip to Vegas. Over the course of the weekend, the pair hook up and find themselves hitched. The next morning, both of them realize it was mistake, but before they have a chance to divorce each other Jack plays the slots with Joy’s quarter and winds up winning $3million.

Both of them claim the money, but instead of splitting it evenly, a court judge assigns them to live together as a married couple to work it out before making a divorce official. Therefore Joy and Jack, despite their differences are forced to play husband and wife for 6 months. It’s not an easy task as they are like oil and water, an odd couple of extreme "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus" behaviour.

The film is yet another take on that subgenre of romantic comedy, where the man and woman try so hard to hate each other, without even realizing they’re falling in love. Instead of creating two interesting characters, writer Dana Fields tries really hard to stay within in its two paragraph summary hook from above.

The result is a series of gender clichés strung together. Like a stand-up comedian using the same material and telling the same jokes for years, the comedy is just as repetitive and derivative. And ‘romance’ only comes into the picture in the final act, tacked on to complete the genre requirements. Jack and Joy have no business being together, yet the genre demands that they do.

Joy and Jack aren’t so much characters as the two most intellectually-challenged selfish people on earth. There’s isn’t a single realistic or intelligent thought or action from either of them the entire film. Jack is complete idiot from the get go, and decides to follow the advice of his even more idiotic best friend Hater (Rob Cordrry) – yes his name is ‘hater’ – in order to scam the money away from Joy.

Some other familiar faces show up for a decent paycheque. Rob Corddry and Lake Bell generate all the best laughs as the token ‘best friends’. Queen Latifah shows up in a thankless role as the marriage councellor. Dennis Miller turns up with a few wise cracks from the behind the bench as Jack and Joy’s curmudgeon judge. Dennis Farina’s authoritative presence fills the role of Joy’s boss and Treat Williams plays Jack’s father. If anything, these characters serve as welcomed distractions against the non-distinctiveness of the leads

As mentioned the film is a series of clichéd gags on the differences between men and women – if you didn’t know, men leave the toilet seat up, that’s funny! The tête-à-tête of one-up-manships fills the entire second act, which is far too long. “What Happens in Vegas” never elevates itself above it’s hook of silliness and childishness to be taken seriously, even as a genre-comedy.

“What Happens in Vegas” is available on DVD August 26 from Fox Home Entertainment

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