Movie Review for What Happens in Vegas (2008)

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Review #643 of 365
Movie Review of What Happens in Vegas (2008) [PG-13] 99 minutes
WIP™ Scale: $12.75
Where Viewed: United Artists Denver Pavilions Stadium 15, Denver, CO
When Seen: 9 May 2008
Time: 2:50 pm
DVD Release Date: 26 August 2008 (click date to purchase or pre-order)
After the Credits: There are a couple of funny scenes during the credits and one semi-funny scene after the credits which explains what happens to Jack's friends.
Film's Official WebsiteFilm's Trailer

Soundtrack: order the CD below

Directed by: Tom Vaughan (Starter for Ten)
Screenplay by: Dana Fox (The Wedding Date)

Featured Cast (Where You Might Remember Him/Her From):
Cameron Diaz (Shrek the Third) • Ashton Kutcher (Open Season) • Rob Corddry (Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay) • Lake Bell (Over Her Dead Body) • Jason Sudeikis (Semi-Pro) • Treat Williams ("Everwood") • Deirdre O'Connell (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) • Michelle Krusiec ("Dirty, Sexy Money") • Dennis Farina ("Law and Order") • Zach Galifianakis (Into the Wild) • Queen Latifah (Mad Money) • Krysten Ritter (27 Dresses) • Andrew Daly (Semi-Pro) • Dennis Miller (Joe Dirt)

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Click to see photos from the Premiere of What Happens in Vegas
Click to read the spoiler points for What Happens in Vegas
While the trailer gives away too many of the funny parts it gives away nothing at all when it comes to What Happens in Vegas's tender moments. So far, 2008, has not been extremely kind to fans of romantic comedies. Most have been neither very romantic nor very comedic. Recall back on Fool's Gold and 27 Dresses for example. Well, Ashton Kutcher and Cameron Diaz restore faith in the genre readily, moreover, they put the horrible, though somewhat similar, Jennifer Aniston / Vince Vaughn vehicle, The Break-Up out of mind once and for all. The story here concerns a couple of late 20-somethings: him, Jack Fuller(Kutcher), recently fired by his own father (Treat Williams) for being completely irresponsible at work; and Joy McNally (Diaz), a Wall Street type A who gets dumped by her long-time boyfriend during his surprise birthday party, who then coincidentally meet due to a hotel room mix-up in Las Vegas. After charming Joy out of charging him and his buddy Hater (Rob Corddry) with trespassing and turning the evening into one of pure, unadulterated fun like only Las Vegas can deliver, Jack and Joy awaken the next morning to find themselves newlyweds. In front of a slot machine, they profess their intention to separate and not hold the other responsible for this spur of the moment, intoxicated whimsical decision while arguing a bit about who is dumping whom. Their words escalate into an emotional battle resulting in Joy tossing a quarter in Jack's face. He promptly plops it in the slot machine and, as luck or fate would have it, wins $3,000,000.

…generates one of the decade's most romantic moments
Funny how money suddenly changes everything and Joy no longer wants a divorce or annulment, in fact, she finds herself 'madly in love' with Jack. As they wrestle for the money and the state of their affair back in their hometown of Manhattan, Dennis Miller in a cameo role as Judge Whopper, however, has different plans for them including freezing the money and sentencing the two to six months of "hard marriage". The only way either one is going to see a dime of the money is if they get weekly counseling and learn to love each other. Being the crafty characters they are and with the aid of their two best friends: Hater and Tipper (Lake Bell), they immediately set out on various courses to drive the other one away. And, without giving away much more of the plot then (see the spoiler if you do want more spoiling), there are two logical courses the film might predictably go: (a) they cannot overcome their differences but live through them toward receiving their jointly divorced halves of the money, (b) they end up falling in love. Well, actually there is a third less obvious and less logical path that Jack and Joy's stormy story might head, one that gives it a less predictable feel and ultimately generates one of the decade's most romantic moments…you'll just have to trust.

The film does not make you cry a lot, just a couple times, but they are both wonderful. As for laughter, screenwriter Dana Fox must have seen The Break-Up and realized what parts of that whole fiasco just didn't work and weren't that funny. She's then improved upon the ideas and really given this film a great heart. Tom Vaughan, who directed Starter for 10, has great insight into these characters and the actors driving them. The result is a very complete film that's as touching and illuminating as far as romantic comedies can go. What really makes this film work is the chemistry generated by Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher. The film possesses enough fantasy elements for both genders and seeing these two together battling it out with mean pranks while failing to notice what's right there in front of their faces, was just pure fun. If you watch the story unfold carefully, you will notice potential pitfalls at every turn where the story could have imploded. And you will be surprised every time that each potential calamity is smartly avoided. The film's greatest weakness is in both the casting and writing of the lead character's sidekicks: Lake Bell less so than Rob Corddry. First, their characters, Tipper and Hater, are both too shallow and neither possesses anything about them that would make them seem like logical best friends to Joy and Jack. Generally speaking, this is a weakness in a lot of films these days, but it comes out more in films where the two leading characters are portrayed by superstar actors and the buddies seem intentionally cast by moderately to completely unknown actors so as not to upstage the leads. Well, there's literally no way that either Ms Bell or Mr. Corddry is going to be able to upstage Cameron Diaz or Ashton Kutcher.

…once you get past the contrived elements, this romantic comedy roars.
They are about 30 clique rungs on the social ladder below their stars. The bad thing about this lack of chemistry between the best friend pairs is that it makes the 'best friends' stand out as mismatched, almost like mercy-friends. In this specific case, no matter what somebody who keeps casting Rob Corddry as comic relief, he's not that funny. It's not clear that anybody ever thought that Lake Bell was funny. Ironically, both are probably stronger dramatic actors than comedic. Somebody give them a shot at some drama to see if this hypothesis bears out. Being a great comedic actor despite what the Academy Awards® would have you believe is far, far more difficult than being a brilliant dramatic actor. Both Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher have demonstrated themselves to be at the top of their game in both realms but especially in the comedy arena. The are both so good it's easy to forget they're acting at all. While Cameron Diaz has really elevated her career of late, What Happens in Vegas could be the pivotal break out role for Ashton Kutcher as he transitions from the frat boy comedic actor into a more serious comedic leading man. Fans of his who've followed his career carefully will delight to see a maturing older more vulnerable side of him coming out in this role. Likewise, Cameron Diaz fans will relish seeing her play a character that's a bit stronger, more self-assured, and less clumsy.

While it's hard to get around the contrived elements of the film's plot, they are what they are, once the real story gets rolling, and that's when the two start to take major action toward breaking their relationship apart, this romantic comedy starts to roar.

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Cast Members
Cameron DiazAshton KutcherRob Corddry
Lake BellJason SudeikisTreat Williams
Deirdre O'ConnellMichelle KrusiecDennis Farina
Zach GalifianakisDennis MillerKrysten Ritter
Tom Vaughan
Dana Fox
Signed Aston Kutcher Poster

Review-lite What Happens in Vegas (2008) [max of 150 words]
What could be better than Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher together in a romantic comedy? How about if the romantic comedy actually lives up to its genre and is both hopelessly romantic in a modernly entertaining way and filled with great comedy that stoops only a little bit into the realm of gross out stuff. Well, that's What Happens in Vegas, a film about two people bound together unexpectedly by a huge slot machine jackpot who ultimately must decide if their one night of Las Vegas bliss will transport them toward a life of love, laughter, and bliss. With less predictability and more heart, this film written by Dana Fox and directed by Tom Vaughan roars past its contrived cousins of the past few years delivering a fresh, funny, and adorable film.

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1 comment:

John Thomas "Kooz" Kuczmarski said...

Haha "wallstreet type a" -- great, and accurate description. Also, the screenplay of getting fired by your own dad could have been corny, but the actors handled that very well. I actually saw this (one of the few film reviews I've read AND scene) at the Grauman's in la, while waiting for the car, and it was definitely an amusing film. More com than rom, but great chemistry and humor between diaz and kutcher. Also, I thought corddry was hysterical in this. excellent review. Yeah, ashton definitely shined in this well He's done a good job segueing out of his "that 70s show" typecast to play other humorous roles effectively. I think my favorite part was the opening hotel room scene in vegas where corddry was "screaming like a girl" and groups hotel rooms overlapped.