The battle for the human heart has official morphed from witty, sophisticated banter between star-crossed lovers to something akin to mixed martial arts. Or, in the case of the new Ashton Kutcher/Cameron Diaz romcom What Happens in Vegas..., dull marital artifice. In this cloying, created-by-committee exercise in screaming and facial mugging, personal humanity is reduced down to five or six of the seven deadly sins -- particularly: greed, sloth, and... no wait, that's about it. As a result, we witness gender dynamics as primitive pandering.
After getting dumped by her stiff-collared fiancé, efficient New York securities trader Joy McNally (Diaz) gets talked into a trip to Sin City by her best friend, slutty bartender Tipper (Lake Bell). A mix up at the front desk finds recently fired NYC furniture builder Jack Fuller (Kutcher) and his shyster slacker pal Hater (Rob Corddry) sharing the same room. A night of drunken debauchery finds Joy and Jack married. As they discuss divorce, the random pull of a slot machine sees the pair win $3 million. Taking the matter to court, a defiant judge (Dennis Miller) orders the pair to actually live as husband and wife for six months. If they survive, they'll split the money. But if one fails, it's an unexpected windfall for the other.
Wrapping 197 plots into a single, sloppy narrative, What Happens in Vegas... is almost painful to watch. It's a decent romance rigged to a hideously unfunny comedy. Bouncing wildly between farce and calculated coupling insights, our characters exist in a world where men are pigs, women are manipulative shrews, and somewhere in between exist a sprinkling of skanks, dipsticks, and sexually inappropriate bosses. The script, by Wedding Date scribe Dana Fox, contains so many flaws that you wonder what's holding it all together. It clearly isn't the pedestrian, music-montage-heavy direction from Tom Vaughn.
No, the only reason this entire project doesn't supernova and start sucking the life out of the universe like a cinematic black hole is the leads. Cameron Diaz needs to do something to break out of these mixed-up, part-ditz/part-determined cutesy career gal roles. She's constantly being cast as a junior college Meg Ryan, but at 36, she can only push the enviable eye candy bit so far. Kutcher, on the other hand is like box office body odor. Look over his resume from the last few years and the aroma of failure is pungent. Yet thanks to his quasi-chemistry with Diaz, and a few moments where the written mechanics give way to improvised genuineness, he scoots along unscathed.
Clearly aimed to counterprogram the male adolescent aura given off by the summer blockbusters, What Happens in Vegas... is a date movie for those who really don't see their relationship going anywhere. It's the equivalent of a tween's school notepad, cover adorned with quixotic designs and heart-dotted lettering and lacking one ounce of intelligence or insight. You can literally see the cast desperate to overcome the whisper-thin material, including completely underserved supporting players like Treat Williams (as Jack's father), Queen Latifah (as the couple's court-ordered marriage counselor), and comedian Zach Galifianakis.
The result is a movie that mocks everything love is founded on before coming full circle to embrace each and every formulaic facet. It also strives to ply personality, not obvious gags, for laughs, and only ends up proving that caricature offers neither. Somewhere buried in this staid, stereotypical excuse for a likeable lover's spat is a decent idea for a movie. Since all involved can't find it, it's up to the audience to. They'll be lost as well.
I went to Vegas and all I got was this lousy three million dollars.