When I saw the first trailer for What Happens in Vegas, only one thing crossed my mind: "That looks terrible!" As the next trailer arrived and the posters started appearing at local theaters, my initial thoughts remained unchanged. There was nothing that I saw leading up to its release that convinced me that this was going to in any way, shape, or form be a good movie. All that said, I decided to give it the opportunity to surprise me.
Yes, I decided to go and subject myself to this movie. As I walked the long walk down the hallway to my date with destiny and the screening auditorium, I resigned myself to make the best of it and hope for the best. I mean, who knows? It is quite possible that I would be surprised by a quality movie. Speed Racer's trailers did not exactly point to a "good" movie and I enjoyed that immensely. There I went, once more into the breach.
Still with me? Good. The movie is over, and I am sad to report that my initial feelings were confirmed. What Happens in Vegas is not a good movie, not by a long shot, but it is also not bad in the "pluck my eyeballs out" sense. It was more like the "Seriously, does anyone really care?" fashion. It is a film with modest expectations, mediocre execution, and will likely be forgotten inside of six months, much like a number of other titles in both of the leads' respective filmographies.
I think a big part of the problem is that the romantic comedy subgenre is rather stagnant. This genre has become so driven by formula that it has become increasingly difficult to craft a romantic comedy that feels fresh and new. So what it boils down to is the chemistry between the leads and the overall quality of writing. This year has already had examples at both ends of the spectrums. At one end of the spectrum you get the likes of Made of Honor and Over Her Dead Body, both of which have decent conecepts but fail in the final execution. At the other end of the spectrum are films like 27 Dresses, which works the formula well and has a very likable lead, and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, a film that fires on all cylinders while twisting the formula, yet never leaving the general area. These two films are good examples of writing and acting that make the genre work. As for What Happens in Vegas? Well, the leads are likable enough, so that leaves the problems in execution at the feet of the writers and director.
What Happens in Vegas does not waste much time getting itself going. First, we are introduced to Wall Street trader Joy McNally (Diaz), a woman who is successful, in love, and has this habit of planning out every moment of every day. Shortly after our introduction, she is unceremoniously dumped as their closest friends listen from another room. On the flip side of the coin is Jack Fuller (Kutcher), a slacker and commitment-phobe who cannot even keep a job working for his father. He is unceremoniously fired. Now, we have two single people at low points in their respective lives looking for a distraction. They simultaneously decide to jet off to Vegas for some fun with their best pals. This is where the problems begin.
Through a contrived "meet-cute" our couple have a drunken night of partying that culminates in the exchanging of vows. One pull of a one-armed bandit later and the two are at each other's throats over a $3 million prize. Unable to come to an agreement, they wind up in front of a judge (Dennis Miller), who sentences them to six months of marriage before making a decision. Can you guess what comes next?
The first two thirds of the movie have the two fighting like cats and dogs, and subsequently gets bogged down in sitcom-styled antics. The movie is loud, it is obnoxious, and the characters are not at all likable. It may have something to do with the fact we do not really get to know them all that well to truly care about either one. It is not as if they are bad people, they just are not terribly well suited to each other. Still, I just do not care.
In the last third, the writing allows the characters some more genuine moments, but by now it is too little too late. After over sixty minutes of bickering and goofy antics, the tonal shift into something more closely resembling reality is jarring and does not mesh with what has come before. All this while Lake Bell and Rob Corddry (Tipper and Hater, respectively) regularly steal scenes from the leads.
This is a movie that relies too heavily on the superficial. Diaz and Kutcher are likable enough and seem comfortable within the genre, but some of their choices are questionable. Of course, some of their choices are likely due to the director. The best example of goofy choices would be when (not a spoiler, this is in the trailer) Kutcher reveals the removed toilet seat to the camera. Way to break the fourth wall! For whose benefit is the reveal? That is the most unforgivable of choices; others are reactions and such that just don't work, especially when the tone shifts in the last third.
Bottom line. This movie is just a bit too loud and obnoxious to truly enjoy. Yes, there were a couple of chuckles to be had, but not nearly enough to recommend. If you feel you must see this, wait for DVD and rent it.