The Austin Chronicle

What Happens in Vegas

Rated PG-13, 99 min. Directed by Tom Vaughan. Starring Cameron Diaz, Ashton Kutcher, Rob Corddry, Lake Bell, Jason Sudeikis, Zach Galifianakis, Treat Williams, Dennis Farina, Deirdre O'Connell.

REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., May 9, 2008

For all its bright lights and ersatz glitz, Las Vegas can be a dispiriting place, loud and desperate, thick with smoke and dogged by a groupthink tight-grinned directive: You will have fun in Vegas. There's something of that same desperation and forced cheer in this jaded comedy of unmarriage starring two Hollywood actors known for their prankishness and pluck. Overplucked here, turns out: Diaz and Kutcher practically pant with franticness trying to convince us that these! yuks! are! fun! They play two halves of a one-night stand that turns into a quickie marriage; plans for an annulment derail when husband and wife win a $3 million jackpot, and a sadistic judge (Dennis Miller) sentences them to six months of "hard marriage" before they can divorce and/or touch the money. A strident Diaz plays against type, shackling the good-time gal to play a tightly wound Wall Street she-warrior recovering from a bad breakup. Sans her elastic charm, Diaz recalls Ellen Barkin's ice-in-the-veins but shows none of that actress' tempering smolder. Kutcher plays to his strength – unemployed frat-boy humor – but watching him try to smooth his pretty face into lovesick sincerity is like watching a bucket bang around a well long gone dry. Both the actors and the characters they play are a terrible mismatch, but then screenwriter Dana Fox has something of a fetish for awkward couplings: Her last go-round, The Wedding Date, was girl-meets-paid male escort. British director Vaughan previously made the sweet coming-of-age film Starter for 10 and the accomplished BBC adaptation of Trollope's He Knew He Was Right but here shows none of the sensitivity or distinction of those pictures. And if you're gonna hire one of the funniest American comedians working today – Zach Galifianakis – and shove him to the side of the frame, then frankly, you can take what happens in Vegas, keep it in Vegas, and keep the rest of the us out of it.

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