The best thing about “What Happens in Vegas” is Cameron Diaz.
On the heels of that impression, a question: What is Cameron Diaz doing in such a lame-brained comedy in which, for most of the way, she looks ridiculous?
‘What Happens in Vegas’
DIRECTED BY Tom Vaughan
SCREENPLAY BY Dana Fox
STARRING Cameron Diaz, Ashton Kutcher, Rob Corddry, Lake Bell, Treat Williams, Queen Latifah and Dennis Miller
RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes
“What Happens in Vegas” not only slaps her career backward; it is the kind of movie that gives romantic comedies a bad name. It isn’t the idea, the concept, or even the story itself. It is the writing, the overall presentation, the insistence on lumping a potentially engaging narrative into what amounts to an elongated music video.
Instead of creating dialogue, director Tom Vaughan and writer Dana Fox stick us with quick sound bites and reactions in which Diaz and Ashton Kutcher register a heap of emotions such as surprise, indignation, anger, hilarity.
Like a rash of other recent films aimed at the twentysomething set, nothing is witty, nuanced or subtle. It all just hangs out there like a stale can of beer. By the time the movie does work up some romantic steam, it already has lost us, or if you will, we have abandoned it.
It’s not hard to imagine what a former breed of directors and screenwriters would have done with the promising material, but then again, those were times in which writers and directors at least strived for literacy — when they took the time to write lines that snapped and crackled. Here, when it’s time to demonstrate that a disgruntled newlywed does not want his bride around, Vaughan and Fox have Kutcher pee in the sink, an action captured in a steady long shot.
Even before this gem, you know the movie is in trouble when Diaz’s Joy McCool and her friend Tipper, played by Lake Bell, are surprised in their Vegas hotel room when two strange men walk in. It’s Kutcher’s Jack Fuller and “Hater” Hadden, a second-rate attorney, played by Rob Corddry, a third-rate performer. Instead of creating comic dialogue to unleash the shock, the creators settle on one long sequence of cacophonous staccato screams. It’s downright dumb. The guys responsible for Looney Toons have exercised more imagination, more delectable lunacy.
From there, it’s all downhill, for on that very night, the quartet of fractious strangers decides to tear up the town. When Joy and Jack wake up, they are married. Blame it on the booze. Then, just as they decide they have done something pretty silly, Jack wins $3 million at the slots with Joy’s quarter.
The picture still has a chance to redeem itself, but here they are in an inane court scene before a judge played by Dennis Miller, who tells them the problem in America is not “gay marriage,” but mercurial newlyweds like Jack and Joy. He freezes the winnings and orders that they move in together before submitting to counseling with a shrink played by Queen Latifah
Meanwhile, both do everything they can to sabotage the judge’s wishes. Jack does not want Joy. Joy does not want Jack. To detail the ways they try to wreck things is too painful an experience. By the time the alleged romance shifts into tender gear, you are already too worn out to savor the ending, which one might describe as a Hallmark Card reject.
Couldn’t they just have split the money and split? Could’ve, should’ve, and why did Cameron Diaz take a chance on staining her career?