ARTS

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May 13, 2008

Diaz, Kutcher balance out; Vegas misses jackpot

I expected Tom Vaughan’s What Happens in Vegas to be the typical fare of the famed “comedic” actors Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher, but I was mostly wrong. The film was highly enjoyable. While Diaz remained annoying and Kutcher maintained his stupid-boy role, they were appealing characters, and the comedy was definitely there.

Joy McNally (Diaz) and Jack Fuller (Kutcher) meet in Vegas after their respective lives begin to unravel. After finding themselves booked in the same room at a Vegas hotel, they party together and wake up to find themselves married to each other. After deciding that they are completely incompatible, Jack uses Joy’s quarter to win $3 million in a slot machine.

Thus begins the struggle over the money and the main action of the film. In a hilarious cameo as the divorce court judge, Dennis Leary tells the two that they must remain married for six months in order to split the money. While both think that the money is rightfully theirs, plots are hatched to show that the other is a bad spouse and that the money should go to one person only.

Despite the plot’s lack of originality and the seeming reprisal of previous roles for both actors, there is a glimmer of hope in the way that the two interact. Kutcher somehow makes Diaz far less annoying, perhaps tempering her over-the-top acting with his own freak-out style. While Diaz usually comes across as too cutesy for her own good, the neurosis of her type-A character allows her to be more contained and watchable.

Vaughan apparently took great pains to ensure that Kutcher was the eye candy of the film. Frequently without his shirt, he looks every bit as toned as usual.

Unlike Kutcher’s bod, the cameos of the film are somewhat underwhelming. Though Leary is fabulous as the judge, Queen Latifah and Zach Galifianakis are underused and not given room to make strong comedic performances. Latifah, as the marriage counselor that Joy and Jack are ordered to see, is somber and stern in her role. She seems too straight for the film, and the audience knows that she could do better.

Galifianakis, a great stand-up comedian, tries to make his role bigger and more interesting than what is given to him. His slow, awkward brand of humor fits right in, and yet it seems as though he is underused.

In addition to Galifianakis’s cameo, keep an eye out for Treat Williams as Jack’s father. Williams doesn’t get enough play either, but he makes do with his role. Despite having some fantastic character actors, Vaughan doesn’t seem to know what to do with them, and they get lost in the fray of the “big-name” actors, Diaz and Kutcher.

Highlights include the bright skyline of Vegas and Lake Bell of Boston Legal fame. Bell is an accomplished actress, and her comedic timing definitely tops Diaz’s. As Joy’s best friend Tipper, she serves as comic relief when the film begins to get too sappy. And it does.

Vegas is a romantic comedy, and while this is most people’s least favorite genre, the film delays the inevitable romance between the lead characters until fairly late. This is both a saving grace and a major pitfall. The comedy lasts longer, yet when the two begin to fall in love (did I spoil something? Honestly, who’s surprised?), it feels sudden and fake.

All in all, the film is quite entertaining and fun to watch. Make sure to stay for the credits since they definitely make up for the sappy, romantic-comedy ending. It’s quality Kutcher and Diaz; take that as you will.