What Happens in Vegas

Now in Cinemas: Reviews for May 15, 2008

Reviews by Jason Pirodsky
for Expats.cz

The contempt the filmmakers have for their audience is revoltingly apparent in Tom Vaughn´s What Happens in Vegas, an appalling romantic comedy that has the courage to have its male lead urinate in the kitchen sink and then proudly proclaim “your turn to do dishes!” Our female lead, on the other hand, plays a far more insidious game of emotional blackmail. For two acts we watch these repulsive creatures torment each other to no end, until that magical act three, when we´re asked to care about them as they fall in love. Excuse me whilst I vomit at the screen.

What Happens in Vegas
Directed by Tom Vaughn. Starring Cameron Diaz, Ashton Kutcher, Rob Corddry, Lake Bell, Jason Sudeikis, Treat Williams, Deirdre O’Connell, Michelle Krusiec, Dennis Farina, Zach Galifianakis, Queen Latifah, Dennis Miller. Written by Dana Fox.
IMDb link

Jack (Ashton Kutcher) is a lazy, slimy man-child who gets fired by his father from some sort of carpentry job. Joy (Cameron Diaz) is a shrill, uptight stock trader (given the job description, I think ‘ruthless´ was an intended character trait, but I´ve seen Ms. Diaz play ruthless, and Ms. Diaz cannot play ruthless) who is dumped by her fiancée outside a roomful of people waiting to give him a surprise party. The leads head to Vegas with the requisite sidekicks (Rob Corddry, Lake Bell) as an escape and ‘meet cute´ during a repellent scene in which they discover they´re sharing the same suite, the women shrieking, busting out the mace, throwing lamps against the wall and jumping on backs with arms wildly flailing. Later, everyone goes out for drinks.

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In a manic, uncompromising montage – the visual equivalent of a vomit-fueled drinking binge that feels spliced out of Requiem for a Dream, complete with rapid-fire cuts, overuse of color, and a nonstop roaring crowd that put Speed Racer to shame – our romantic leads get wasted, loose, and hitched. In the morning they realize – shock, horror – they may have made a mistake. Then the arguing begins, nonstop nails-on-a-chalkboard stuff that doesn´t end until act 3 when our leads realize – shock, horror – they were meant for each other.

Now, usually there´s a dead relative and a will stipulating ‘marriage or no inheritance´ to get this kind of story to work, but the filmmakers here opt for one of the flimsiest excuses for a plot that I have ever seen: Judge Dennis Miller sentences the two, upon requesting a divorce, to 6 months hard marriage to atone for their mistake, meeting with marriage counselor Queen Latifah to prove they´re actually trying to make it work. And how could I forget! Jack wins a $3 million jackpot with Joy´s quarter just as they ‘split up´; there´s money involved, so you know these lovely characters will do anything and everything to come out on top.

A low point for everyone involved. Even Kutcher. Dana Fox´s screenplay bears most – if not all – of the blame. There are a couple OK pop tunes, including a catchy one that plays over the opening credits; that´s the only positive thing I´m prepared to say here.

What Happens in Vegas isn´t just your average bad movie. It´s competently made and never boring, but one of those rare films where you can feel the filmmakers pandering to their intended audience every step of the way, and when you think of the audience they must be pandering to, you get that sinking feeling deep in your stomach. Is this what has become of our culture? Are there people out there that will enjoy this film? I´d like to think the answer is no; box office receipts say otherwise. I walk away here infinitely more depressed than after viewing the oeuvre of Bergman, or Ozu, or Béla Tarr. If only that was the intent.


Note: go see In Bruges instead. Or Speed Racer, screening (only) at Palace Cinemas Slovanský dům in an undubbed English-language print.


Also opening: U me dobrý (showtimes), the latest from director Jan Hrebejk (Medvídek, Kráska v nesnázích, Horem Pádem), starring Boleslav Polívka, Jirí Schmitzer, Josef Somr, Lenka Vlasáková, Miroslav Vladyka, Petr Forman, Vladimír Javorský. Film is screening in Czech, without subtitles.

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