Remember that Friends episode where Ross and Rachel drunkenly eloped in Vegas? Screenwriter Dana Fox sure does, and she’s recycled that plot with a Hollywood sheen in What Happens in Vegas. Ne’er-do-well carpenter Jack (Ashton Kutcher), recently fired by his father, and high-strung commodities trader Joy (Cameron Diaz) meet after a hotel room mix-up and begin a night of debauchery that ends in marriage. It’s hate at second sight the morning after, but after Jack wins big at a slot machine with Joy’s quarter, their three million dollar payout makes divorce a tad trickier.
Of course, what happens in What Happens in Vegas actually mostly takes place back in Jack’s boho DUMBO pad, after a Manhattan judge forces the couple to cohabitate for six months while their winnings stay frozen. Both bicker, but there’s a surprise in store…eventually, opposites will attract! True, some stock rom-com moments work, but why shouldn’t they? They’ve been time-tested in everything from Green Card to Jerry Maguire to Fool’s Gold.
Director Tom Vaughan keeps the energy up in early scenes; Vegas occasionally crackles when Jack and Joy go toe to toe with their nasty exchanges. Rob Corddry acquits himself well as Jack’s slovenly wingman friend and attorney, but Lake Bell gets short shrift in her ill-defined role playing second banana to Diaz. Kutcher even gives a surprisingly modulated performance, but he and Diaz (overly tanned to the point of distraction) never radiate sparks, particularly as the film turns to mush. Instead, Fox relies on the audience’s desire for two such pretty people to end up together to outweigh the fact that Jack and Joy are a colossal mismatch. Of course, it’s an exercise in futility to analyze crowd-pleasers like Vegas. With films like these, the house always wins.