Rudy: I’m going away.
Tripper: You goin’ to Vegas? If you’re going to Vegas, I would be up for it because I love that town. I’m a party guy. I love that town. – “Meatballs”
Does anyone remember that old “Las Vegas is family friendly” ad campaign from, like, 20 years ago? If my recollection is correct (and I drink, so no promises) during the latter days of the George H.W. Bush administration, Vegas tried to polish up its image in an effort to attract a more wholesome class of tourist. In other words, folks other than those solely interested in drinking all night, losing desperate amounts of money at craps, and blowing their 401(k)s on strippers (*cough*). As you can imagine, this didn’t exactly have Joe and Jane Wonderbread booking with confidence so Taylor and Micah could ride the roller coaster at New York, New York. And so – not coincidentally some time during Clinton’s presidency – the city returned to courting the nation’s inebriates and degenerates. The current campaign is undoubtedly familiar to you: “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”
For purposes of the movie “What Happens in Vegas…”, that slogan serves merely as an underhanded means to make this altogether unnecessary movie remain in the public consciousness long enough to make its budget back. Certainly, the two leads’ primary reasons for traveling to Sin City are appropriately Lethean; Jack Fuller (Ashton Kutcher, really stretching here) is a ne’er-do-well carpenter who’s just been fired by his boss/father (Treat Williams). Joy McNally (Cameron Diaz) has recently suffered the indignation of getting dumped by her boyfriend at his surprise birthday party, which she organized. Separately, and with respective best friends (Rob Corddry, Lake Bell) in tow, the two end up booked into the same hotel room and, after some forced initial conflict, go on to have one of those legendary nights in Vegas (hot tables, easy access to clubs, no public urination) that absolutely nobody has unless their name is Sean Combs or Paris Hilton.
The two marry (something else that happens a lot in the movies, and to sub-literate celebrities), agree to get a divorce (isn’t annulment an option in a 6-hour long Vegas marriage?), then argue with each other when – minus the protective, nonjudgmental cocoon of alcohol – they mistakenly assume they aren’t right for each other. That would appear to be all she wrote, until Jack wins a $3 million jackpot. With Joy’s quarter. Returning to New York, the two are ordered by a smarmy judge (Dennis Miller, who hasn’t approached funny since 1995) to cohabitate and attend marriage counseling. If either party doesn’t make a genuine effort, the other person gets the money.
During the screening, I tried to come up with as many synonyms for the word “excruciating” as I could. I gave up around ten (“torturous” was the best). Kutcher mugs his way through the proceedings, while Diaz… Jesus, wasn’t she supposed to be the next big thing? When did she get stuck making movies with, well, with Ashton Kutcher?
Director Tom Vaughan, known primarily for TV fare, and writer Dana “The Wedding Date” Fox have essentially produced a more sanitized version of “About Last Night…” only without even that movie’s middling level of authenticity (to say nothing of the original play’s brutal frankness). If “What Happens in Vegas…” serves any purpose, it’s to make me consider spending my gambling money in Reno or on a riverboat instead.