(2008)1.5Nathan SouthernIf a bunch of inebriated film school half-wits on the brink of expulsion got together to produce a sex farce in under a week, the results might be comparable to Tom Vaughan's What Happens in Vegas -- one of the most unbearable Hollywood comedies of recent years. Ashton Kutcher stars as Jack Fuller, a less-than-polished single Manhattanite whose most favored pastimes consist of kinky sex games with his girlfriend, such as "I'll play the big, strong fireman, and you play the desperate mother with the baby in the burning building." As the film opens, Jack is deservedly and unceremoniously fired from the furniture business by his well-grounded father (Treat Williams). Cameron Diaz co-stars as Joy McNally, a (less-grating) single Manhattanite publicly embarrassed when her yuppie fiancé (30 Rock's Jason Sudeikis) dumps her seconds before she springs a surprise birthday party on him. Each down-and-outer decides to cut his/her losses by hightailing it to Vegas, where they bump into each other by chance, and take a drunken, headfirst plunge into a long night on the town together. When Joy comes to the next morning, she sports a ring on her finger -- and is horrified to glimpse a sign from Jack referring to her as "wifey." The twist (if one can call it that) occurs when Fuller accidentally hits a three-million-dollar jackpot -- and the bickering couple, in an attempt to claim the full share of the money, falls prey to a conservative judge (Dennis Miller) who refuses to grant a divorce and forces the pair to "try out" married life in order to give it an honest chance, freezing all of the monetary assets in the interim.
Mirthless, obnoxious, and insufferable, this film may well be immune to any sort of normal criticism -- so immune that any review threatens to turn into a laundry list of excoriations. First of all, the film operates on an obscenely loud level. The first third of Dana Fox's awful script features scene, after scene, after scene of characters screaming their lungs out at one another, sprinting around manically, throwing objects at walls, and engaging in truly painful, unfunny comic violence -- from repeated slugs in the crotch to sprays of breath freshener in the eye to the destruction of anything and everything on the screen. A tenth of this would have been fine -- instead, we are bombarded with a maelstrom of sound and fury that raises the proverbial "idiot's tale" to a whole new plane. Tonally, both characters repulse from the word go -- but particularly the scuzzball Jack, with his sleazy sex games and his irresponsibility at work. Fox and Vaughan not only fail to give us an adequate reason to truly care about either partner -- they venture to the other extreme. (Perhaps the best that one can say about this couple -- an effect presumably unintended by Fox or Vaughan -- is this: each partner reaches a level of such obnoxiousness that they deserve each other in the worst way.)
On a comedic level, the film never once scores a bull's-eye or earns a genuine laugh; its so-called "comedic high points" reek of desperation. Consider, for example, Fox's decision to name Diaz's boss (Dennis Farina) Dick Banger (a name repeated on several occasions to wring the most blood out of it) or to name Miller's judge The Honorable R.D. Whopper. Even more troublingly, Fox's humor rests almost exclusively on watching characters attempt to physically and psychologically inflict damage upon one another -- not simply the leads, but everyone onscreen. In more sensitive hands, this could ostensibly work (consider Elaine May's original Heartbreak Kid, for example), but here, we sense no soft edge, no warm center underneath that imparts the characters with even the least iota of compassion or empathy.
Obscene humor is difficult to pull off smoothly and deftly; Mel Brooks has a knack for it, and so did the early Working Title films, such as The Tall Guy and Four Weddings and a Funeral. Even Wedding Crashers hit the mark to some degree. Not so for this ugly romp, which bombards the audience with stale and hideous double-entendres that make it feel cheap, tacky, and vulgar.
On a logical level as well, the film's basic setup proves almost impossible to swallow. Fox hands the audience one implausible twist after another, purely designed to drive the central narrative mechanism forward -- from the unlikely "computer mix-up" at the hotel that throws strangers Fuller and McNally into adjoining rooms to the "convenient" win at the slots that turns Jack into an instantaneous millionaire to Judge Whopper's absurd ultimatums regarding a trial marriage.
Watching What Happens in Vegas is pure misery. How miserable, exactly? One knows that one is in trouble when, halfway through the film, one begins reminiscing about screenings of Peter Chelsom's Town & Country, and then hoping that Dane Cook turns up to drive Kutcher out of the picture. That must certainly represent a new low.
Two strangers (Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher) find themselves hitched after a wild night of Las Vegas shenanigans in this 20th Century Fox comedy. Jack Fuller (Kutcher) is a single Manhattanite who can never quite commit to a permanent, long-term relationship and repeatedly hears from his lovers that he "isn't serious boyfriend material." Employed by his father (Treat Williams) at a local furniture business, Jack spends his workdays goofing off by watching sporting events behind dad's back. Joy McNally (Diaz) is faring slightly better; a young, polished urbanite, she juggles a demanding job as a trader on the NYSE with a marital engagement to the impressive Mason (Jason Sudeikis), but has modified her entire life and all of her interests to please her intended.
Coincident with Mr. Fuller's decision to fire his son, Mason severs his engagement to Joy; as a result, both Jack and Joy hit the skids at around the same time and decide to cut their losses by heading out to Vegas. The two accidentally bump into one another when a computer mix-up at the hotel puts them in adjoining rooms; though they begin their acquaintanceship by bickering endlessly, they end up spending a long, drunken night on the town together, and when the sun rises and Joy comes to, she discovers that she unwittingly married Jack in the middle of the night. Alas, just when the two are about to call it quits by filing for divorce after the shortest marriage in history, Jack tosses a coin into a Vegas slot machine and hits a three-million-dollar jackpot -- which naturally pits the newlyweds against one another in an attempt to claim the full share of the money. A conservative local judge, R.D. Whopper (Dennis Miller), then adds the final twist by refusing to grant a divorce until Joy and Jack have given married life a fair shake. In time, the marrieds may just discover that this union isn't as far off the mark as they initially thought. Dennis Farina, Queen Latifah, and Zach Galifianakis round out the supporting cast.