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Overall Rating

Awesome: 4.76%
Worth A Look: 0%
Just Average: 2.38%
Pretty Crappy: 16.67%

5 reviews, 12 user ratings

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What Happens in Vegas
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Little Fear But Plenty Of Loathing In (And For) Vegas"
1 stars

Hollywood that delighted audiences with clever plots, witty dialogue, brisk pacing and likable characters played by endlessly charismatic performers playing wonderfully off of each other with the precision and timing of a well-oiled machine. Of course, times have changed since then and the makers of this particular film have made a few adjustments to that once-surefire formula. Instead of a clever plot, they have provided us with an unwieldy amalgamation of one of the best black comedies of the last two decades, “The War of the Roses,” and one of the worst, “Sour Grapes” (otherwise known as the Larry David project that he would prefer everyone to simply forget). Instead of witty dialogue, they have provided us with vulgar attempts at humor that tries (and fails) to illustrate the lighter side of misogyny, racism, homophobia, spousal abuse, emotional cruelty, poorly maintained bathrooms and punches to the groin. Instead of brisk pacing, they have provided us with a film that moves at a pace that would require a 10,000-volt jolt in order to goose it up to the level of “somnambulistic.” Instead of likable characters played by endlessly charismatic performers playing wonderfully off of each other with the precision and timing of a well-oiled machine, they have provided us with a group of actors trying and failing to strike any comedic or romantic sparks while playing characters who are so stridently unlikable and off-putting that most audiences will find themselves silently (or perhaps not-so-silently) praying that this will be another Vegas-set saga that utilizes Joe Pesci, a vise and a few pre-dug holes in the desert. The end result is easily the worst romantic comedy that you will find in theaters this weekend (or possibly this year) and yes, I am fully aware that “Made of Honor” is still playing.

The film stars Cameron Diaz as Joy, a tightly-wound options trader who micromanages every single aspect of her professional and personal life, and Ashton Kutcher as Jack, a lackadaisical man-child who channels what little energy he has into avoiding anything that vaguely smacks of personal or professional responsibility. When the two are both hit with sudden shocks to the system--Joy is dumped by her fiancée (Jason Sudekis) for being too much of a control freak and Jack gets fired from his job by his own father (Treat Williams), they are encouraged by their respective best pals (Lake Bell and Rob Corddry) to blow off some steam in Las Vegas. After meeting cute due to a hotel room mix-up, Joy and Jack spend an especially debauched night (the kind of bacchanal that the late, great Hunter S. Thompson, the author of a slightly more impressive tale of a Vegas visit, might have referred to as “Thursday afternoon”) on the town and when they wake up the next morning, they discover to their shock and horror that they got married at some point during the evening, no doubt right after discovering that the Celine Dion revue ended a couple of months ago. Of course, they have nothing in common--see the character descriptions in the first sentence of this paragraph--and after taking a few gratuitous shots at each other, they decide to go their separate ways.

Alas, the separation hits a snag when Jack plays a slot machine with a quarter left behind by Joy and wins a $3 million jackpot. Instead of simply agreeing to split the money and go their separate ways, the thing that most people might do if they unexpectedly came into millions of dollars right after accidentally marrying a total stranger the night before, the two somehow wind up in court and find themselves before an activist judge (Dennis Miller) who announces that he is freezing the $3 million and forcing the two of them to spend the next six months living together and seeing a counselor (Queen Latifah) so that they can try to make a real go of their drunken sham of a marriage. (One might question whether this particular judge overstepped his bounds or not--I prefer to question why he still seems convinced that there is $3 million to split when the taxes were presumably taken out long ago.) Alas, these two are truly incompatible, you will recall--after all, he’s irresponsible and she likes a clean bathroom--and so they each begin playing a series of nasty tricks in the hopes of causing the other to flee and forfeit their share of the money. Will the two begin to discover that maybe they do have some feelings for each other after all? If this happens, will one of the aforementioned nasty tricks finally pay off at the worst possible time and inspire heartbreak in one and guilt in another? And if this happens, will one of them come to their senses and go racing off to this one place that the other mentioned once in passing in the hopes that they will be there at that exact moment so that each one can apologize and express their true feelings to each other? Most importantly, will there be anyone in the audience with a high enough pain threshold to make it to the end in order to find out if any of these things happen or not?

As bad as the trailers that have been incessantly playing for what seems like forever have made it look, they don’t even begin to help conceptualize just how awful “What Happens in Vegas” really is. For starters, pretty much every single character that we encounter is completely unlikable--Joy is a hateful shrew, Jack is a slack-jawed halfwit and the best pals are so unbelievably repellent that they almost pull off the impossible task of making the leads seem palatable by comparison--and none of the actors are able to do anything to save the film or themselves from embarrassment. The basic plot falls so beneath the artistic levels set by even the weakest sitcoms that even the creators of “Small Wonder” could sneer at it with contempt. The timing is all off throughout--none of the big comedic set pieces are allowed to build and some are so indifferently put together (especially the frantic race between Joy and Jack to arrive first for their counseling session) that they feel like rough assemblages of footage than anything remotely resembling a finished product. Hell, the film doesn’t even pass muster on the most basic level of providing something reasonably attractive for the eye to focus on. Director Tom Vaughn has taking such a lackadaisical, who-the-hell-cares? approach to the project that he can’t even pull off the seemingly idiot-proof task of making Cameron Diaz look attractive--throughout the film, she has the kind of worn and haggard look that you might more readily associate with the people leaving the multiplex after dropping money on it instead of on “Iron Man.”

The big problem with “What Happens in Vegas” is that it simply isn’t funny for a moment. No, I don’t mean that there are good ideas for jokes that just didn‘t translate from the page to the screen. I mean that there isn’t a single thing on display that could even be described as potentially humorous, let alone laugh-inducing. The gulf between the increasingly frantic on-screen activity and the utter lack of actual humor is so great that it feels at times as though the entire project was the brainchild of aliens who were charged with creating a simulacrum of a romantic farce after being given a list of familiar ingredients but no explanation of how to deploy said ingredients. (This almost, but not quite, explains why the film takes place in the world where Cameron Diaz could be a plausible options trader, Rob Corddry could be a plausible lawyer, Dennis Miller could be a plausible judge and Ashton Kutcher could be a plausible sentient human being.) That said, the screenplay is There are running jokes that are stupid, such as one involving one character and her often-stated desire to punch men in the “junk”--this is so pointless that when this gag is finally resolved, it is done as a throwaway bit during the end credits. There are borderline offensive jokes--such as the numerous homophobic slams, the depiction of Joy’s craven Asian co-worker (Michelle Krusic) and the moment when Jack tries to claim that Joy has been physically abusing him--that might have crossed the border into outright offensiveness if it weren’t for the fact that the film hold practically all of humanity in complete contempt.

Then there are the jokes that are so puerile that if it was indeed put together by creatures from another world, working under the collective name of Dana Fox, it must have been as an assignment for a remedial creative writing class that received a grade so poor that it threatened everyone’s spring break on Gorblatt. In the most questionable of the bunch, Jack is asked by Joy to turn up at a work function in order to meet her boss, played by Dennis Farina, and be charming in the hopes of convincing him to give her a promotion. He agrees--this is the part of the film when he has become sincere--but discovers that the boss’ full name is Richard Banger, he inexplicably decides to begin calling the guy Dick Banger to his face. Even more inexplicably, Dick Banger revels in the nickname that he must have heard a billion times in junior high and quickly becomes fast friends with Jack instead of beating him to death with a shovel, which is the more common outcome of any situation in which you might refer to a character played by the likes of Dennis Farina as “Dick Banger.” Frankly, the best part of the movie comes when Jack and Joy sit down and talk about their shared love for Indiana Jones--the scene isn’t funny or edifying but it does serve as a reminder that the new Indiana Jones film is only a couple of weeks away and, if all goes well, will leave this particular bill of a goods a distant and less-than-fond memory.

I take that back--there is one other aspect of “What Happens in Vegas” that caught my eye and that is the blink-and-you-miss-it performance by Krysten Ritter as a vague sex buddy of Jack’s. She only appears a couple of times throughout the course of the film--she pops up at the beginning dressed as a slutty Girl Scout for a bit of fun, she appears in the middle to help Jack play a trick on Joy and she can be spotted in the background during the big climactic courtroom scene--and while none of her scenes are essential or even particularly entertaining, she has an oddball look and attitude about her that catches the eye and makes you wonder about her character and what she is up to during her long absences from the screen. What is she doing with Jack since it is clear that she could be doing much better? What was her reaction when she arrived at his apartment for their weekly assignation and discovered that he took a wife since their last meeting? Why does she continue to support him even when it becomes evident that he is indeed falling for Joy, to the point of appearing in court as a spectator? Where does she go and what does she do when she isn’t on screen? More importantly, is it possible to go with her when she takes off and avoid the whole sorry spectacle of this film altogether?

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=17210&reviewer=389
originally posted: 05/09/08 00:01:19
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User Comments

5/11/16 David Hollingsworth Worse than getting your teeth drilled. 1 stars
9/03/15 David Hollingsworth Another crappy Diaz rom com. 1 stars
7/03/09 Jim Typical Kick-In-The-Balls humor. Disappointing. 1 stars
5/18/09 mary m I loved it. Ashton and Cameron were really cute together. 5 stars
1/10/09 jssgarden this movie is terribly racist. It's not even funny, it's just stupid. 1 stars
9/15/08 ashton loved it!! ashton did really well not so much the others 5 stars
8/27/08 Jon g Ashton Kutcher movie = corny 2 stars
6/04/08 Jayson Diaz and Kutcher make a great comedic pair. 3 stars
5/25/08 George Barksdale Stay away 1 stars
5/21/08 Maryanne Oh my head...that was physically painful! 1 stars
5/12/08 Lou I broke my first rule - never see an Ashton Kutcherfilm - and paid dearly 1 stars
5/08/08 Jérémy A piece of shit. 1 stars
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  09-May-2008 (PG-13)
  DVD: 26-Aug-2008


  DVD: 26-Aug-2008

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