There is something innately rotten at the core of “What Happens In Vegas” which even the biggest of cynics would find distasteful. The setup is made of the same formulaic stuff that always emanates from the romantic comedy genre, only the characters and their motivations are despicable; this could have worked if done properly (just check out old episodes of “Seinfeld” if you want despicable characters that are lovable) but it doesn’t, leaving two otherwise energetic and charismatic stars in Ashton Kutcher and Cameron Diaz looking nasty, cheap and unredeemable. Yes, there are moments when you laugh, but those moments do not leave you with a good feeling, but a distasteful one. To make matters worse, the film makes an abrupt u-turn in the final act so we can get the obligatory happy ending where all is forgiven and everyone loves each other. “What Happens in Vegas” is a promising idea for a film that is wasted by a poor script, characterisation and overall execution.
Jack and Joy lead very different lives but share a common need to cut loose from their everyday trappings. They both decide to head to Vegas where their paths cross in an unlikely way when their hotel manages to book them both the same room. Jack dares Joy to enjoy the subsequent evening with him, which she accepts, and together with their friends, they proceed to have the night of their lives. They wake up the next morning married, and begin to discuss their annulment. However, when Jack puts one of Joy’s quarters in to a slot machine and wins three millions dollars, the two begin a war of the sexes which at the outset looks potentially funny, but ultimately leads you to hating both of these characters so much that by the end of the film you could not care less that they have a happy ending.
The hook the filmmakers are going for in this film is the spite these characters have for each other in trying to scam the full three million dollar prize money they won in Vegas. Accomplishing a task like this is not easy as you have to make them accessible and empathetic in some way despite their despicable ways, otherwise there is no hook for the audience to get in to the characters. Unfortunately, both Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher, despite their own substantial personal charisma, are directed in such an unsympathetic, two-dimensional manner by Tom Vaughan that watching their antics is far from enjoyable. When one out-does the other, it’s not funny largely because you have no sympathy for what they’ve done. Or maybe it was the sight of watching Kutcher peeing in the kitchen sink that did it for me.
To make matters worse, there is a very inconsistent tone to the whole film. When Jack and Joy are having their big night in Vegas, you feel a chemistry between them, despite their differences. You can see them connecting, which makes their subsequent antagonism feel arbitrary. You would almost accept that if the remainder of the film continued to build on their antagonism, but in the final act, Jack realises how shallow he has been and decides to ask Joy to marry him after she gives up all claim to the money. Suddenly, the entire sarcastic spark is gone and we have a sappy ending. Maybe in the hands of a better director these tonal shifts could have been pulled off but they just seem sloppily handled here, leaving the film as a tonal mess.
“What Happens In Vegas” is a jumbled mess, barely likeable and rotten at its core.
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