Week 21: What Happens in Vegas

Title: What Happens in Vegas
MPAA#: 44208
Showtime: 9:30
Ticket price: 10.99
Seat: Front left
Shotgun: none
Attendance: about 25
Weather: warming
Food: Dr. Pepper, Reese Bites
Expectations: so very low
Met?: yes
Pre-show ads: Coke Zero, Toyota, Telus (twice)
Igor: John Cusack in what looks like this year’s Shark Tale
My Best Friend’s Girl: Dane Cook in Jason Biggs’ business
The Rocker: Rainn Wilson channels Jack Black in rock mode
The Happening: Mark Wahlberg in the Outer Twilight Limit Zones.

Ashton Kutcher is Jack, a slack twentysomething fired by his own father due to lack of ambition or professional pride. His best mate is a lawyer with the unlikely name Hater (Rob Corddry), who recommends a trip to Vegas to cheer him up.
Meanwhile, Cameron Diaz is Joy McNally, a Type A stock trader who is dumped by her fiancée because she doesn’t know how to have fun. Her sidekick with the equally unlikely name Tipper recommends a trip to, well, you know.

Thanks to the first of many contrivances, the two pairs of friends are double booked in the same hotel room and spend the night partying together. There is a very interesting montage of the drinking and “deep” conversation that leads to Jack and Joy getting married at one of those little chapels. The next morning they argue, apparently able to agree on nothing except the need to annul the marriage, but the normally luckless pair suddenly finds themselves the co-owners of a $3 million slot machine jackpot- and neither wants to share.

This film never had much potential. It is just the latest variation of a standard Hollywood formula: that two people who barely know each other can be forced together and live happily ever after (cf. Green Card, The Sure Thing, etc.) This film at least has enough wit to use a “hitting the Jackpot” metaphor to express their odds; but that is about all it has.

Like many romantic comedies, this film exists in a Bizarro world where Rob Corddry is a lawyer, Dennis Miller is a judge, and Queen Latifah is a marriage counselor. Miller sentences Jack and Joy to six months of “hard marriage” under which they must check in with Latifah to ensure that they are sincerely working on the relationship. This somewhat sadistic plot device looks like Shakespeare compared to the ensuing hour of set pieces and idiotic contrivances in which Jack and Joy try to irritate each other- including jokes built on the always hilarious topics of leaving the toilet seat up, domestic violence, and drugging someone’s drink.

True to formula, Jack and Joy eventually do come to respect and empathize with each other, woodenly expressing their love and living happily ever after with three million dollars- much like they have done in real life after collecting their fees for the film, I suppose.

Some would say that this kind of film is harmless fun; I disagree. I think this kind of film is insulting and degrading to both sexes, essentially telling us that no one should want to marry Joy, the organized career-oriented woman; and that no one should want to even date Jack, the playboy who isn’t “serious relationship or marriage material.” We are shown a couple who seem to have nothing in common, and because they live in the aforementioned Bizarro world, they somehow manage to complement each other when in our world they would probably not even be friends.

The only relief in this relentlessly grim formula exercise is Rob Corddry and Lake Bell as the sidekicks, who have their own predictable but more amusing arc in the background. Unfortunately, they are not enough: the script, flat performances, and even technical problems add up to one of the worst movies I have seen in a long time. Do yourself a favour and see Speed Racer instead.

Crowd reaction at end of movie: none
Weird credit(s):
Credit cookie?: yes
For further consideration: is Cameron Diaz too old for Ashton Kutcher… or too young?
Opening next week: Sex and the City, The Strangers, The Foot Fist Way, Savage Grace
Hoping for/ Please god, anything but: Sex and the City

About Scott M

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