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'What Happens in Vegas': Annoying, and incompetent

Kutcher, Diaz comedy tries to get by on star power where none really exists.

By Peter Rainer / May 9, 2008



It was inevitable that an annoying catchphrase would one day become the title for an annoying movie. "What Happens in Vegas" is not only annoying, it's also incompetent – a bad mix. Virtually jokeless – not for want of trying – this comedy starring Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher tries to get by on star power where none really exists.

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Diaz plays Joy McNally, an emotionally repressed stock trader who doesn't think she measures up to the snooty Wall Street fiancé (Jason Sudeikis) who ends up dumping her. Kutcher's Jack Fuller is a party animal who works – sort of – for his father's furnituremaking business. When Dad (Treat Williams) gives him the heave-ho, he heads to Vegas for a rowdy weekend where he and Joy, nursing her own hurts, meet cute. Or, in this case, not-so-cute.

According to the rules of romantic comedy, these two incipient lovebirds must, of course, hate each other on sight. Fair enough. But what if the reasons for hating are much more convincing than the ultimate laws of attraction? Despite the film's fatuous Made for Each Other scenario, these two seem like a mismatch from the start.

Part of the problem lies in the casting. Although Kutcher certainly looks the part of a good-time layabout, he mugs his way through the entire movie, cuing us when to laugh just in case we don't find him funny. And casting Diaz as an uptight, insecure stock trader would have made more sense if director Tom Vaughan had not featured her in outfits more befitting a cocktail waitress.

The premise of the film is that Jack and Joy, hammered in Vegas, get married and, to top it off, win a $3 million dollar slot-machine jackpot. Seeking an annulment, they end up before a judge (Dennis Miller, also miscast) who orders them to cohabitate for six months and make the marriage work – or else no dough for anybody.

It takes an unconscionably long time for these two to figure out they love each other, during which time Joy throws umpteen tantrums, throws mangoes at Jack in the middle of a busy New York street, and instructs him on the finer use of toiletries. He could use the instruction, but do we need to see it? Grade: D+ (Rated PG-13 for sexual and crude content and language, drug reference.)

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