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WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS , USA , 2008 , MPAA Rating : PG-13 for some sexual and crude content, and language,including a drug reference

WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS is a perfectly likeable, perfectly forgettable film with a creaky plot and terrific chemistry between its stars, Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher. It attempts nothing novel in its retelling of the couple who don’t realize that they are perfect for each other, aside from positing an unsavory new popcorn topping. Then again, it doesn’t make the proceedings any sillier than they need to be, oranges lobbed and pink boas sported notwithstanding. Alas, there are problems aplenty, including a wobbly middle act, a revelation about career discontent that comes way out of left field, and a pervasive blandness that takes the whole thing down.


Things get underway without undue delay. Stock trader Joy (Diaz) is dumped by her equally upwardly mobile boyfriend at the surprise birthday party that she throws for him. Just before, actually, when everyone is hiding waiting to yell “surprise.” Jack (Kutcher) has also just been dumped, but not by the adventurous girlfriend who pronounces him unsuitable serious boyfriend/husband material. No, Jack has been dumped from his job by his boss, who is also his father (Treat Williams). With the urging of the requisite kooky best friends, they each separately head from New York to Las Vegas to drown their sorrows in a weekend of drinking, debauchery, and, after a meet-cute introduction, bonding, as in marriage. Perfect opposites, she makes plans to make plans, he never finishes what he starts, they nonetheless connect, wed, then reconsider, but before they can undo the knot, there is a jackpot to consider. A $3 million jackpot won with Joy’s quarter and Jack’s pull just after an ugly morning-after fight. Instead of a quickie divorce or a tidy annulment, Joy and Jack, each vying for half of the winnings, find themselves under court order to live together as man and wife and try to make it work. Court supervised marriage counseling (courtesy of a savvy Queen Latifah) and a series of dirty tricks each designed to make the other quit the marriage ensue with predictable results.


If there is a checklist for this sort of movie, and there no doubt is, most of the items have been checke off here. The grimy bathroom (toilet seat up, of course), the all-girl party thrown as a temptation to the all-too susceptible Jack; Jack’s loopy best pal, Hater (Rob Corddry), lusting for Joy’s snarky and actively hostile, best pal, Tipper (Lake Bell); and the necessity of keeping up the charade for his family and her boss (Dennis Farina). It all coalesces with the effortlessness of the familiar. Diaz and Kutcher are a winning pair, though. She just brittle and overplanned enough to offset the killer good looks that would make most men (and some women) overlook her other flaws, he with an innate nicety, even decency, to his slacker-style charm that makes the dirty tricks he pulls somehow not so dirty. Diaz’s sense of comic timing may be a scooch better, but then her character’s backstory of being discontent with her job on the trading floor, the one she has been so very gung-ho about for the entire film, is completely missing until needed as a plot element. As is traditional for these tales, it is the best friends who provide the unhinged element, and Bell and Corddry are perfect. He with that unsettling glimmer in his eye that sets off warning bells about such things as his relationship with lavender soap, she with a deadpan dyspepsia that is equally unsettling with its intensity, adding a note of real danger to her un-relationship with Hater that is, in its wackiness, somehow satisfying.


WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS roots not just for these kids, but also for the idea of romance in general. Amiably winking that the audience about its own faults, it doesn’t wow, in fact, it doesn’t quite rise above a tepid sort of sweetness, even if it does produce an “aww” or two.

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