What Happens In Vegas Is A Formulaic Rom-Com That Underuses The City

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One overused cliche about Las Vegas is that whatever happens in the city, stays in the city. That usually pertains to debauchery provided for by its many casinos and adult entertainment, and it’s a trope movies and TV shows are all too willing to keep using. It’s mostly a catchphrase used to drive a plot forward (usually, to Las Vegas itself) but not until 2008 did someone think of turning into a full film. That, friends, is the Ashton Kutcher and Cameron Diaz romcom What Happens In Vegas, using the libertine freedom the city gives into a foundation for romance.

What Happens In Vegas begins in New York, not Las Vegas, where equity trader Joy Ellis McNally (played by Cameron Diaz) has her marriage called off by her fiance at the surprise birthday party she throws him. Her castmate Ashton Kutcher plays Jack Fuller, a carpenter who is fired from his job by his dad. Both Jack and Joy feel really bad about their current situations in life, and they separately decide to go on a whim and head to Las Vegas with their repsective best friends Jeff (nicknamed “Hater”) and Toni (nicknamed “Tipper”).

In Vegas, Joy and Jack meet completely coincidentally after a technical error with the computer system in the Vegas hotel they’re in books them in the same room. The hotel makes up for their mistake by giving them upgrades and coupons to different clubs in the city, allowing them to party and drink together.

The next morning, they realize that they ended up getting married by accident during their drunken debauchery, and decide to get a divorce. Before they go get a divorce, however, Jack incidentally wins $3 million in a slot machine, which Joy has a claim to half of since they are legally married.

Back in New York, they try to get a divorce, but the judge sentences them to try and cohabitate for six months before proceeding with the divorce. Their attempts at cohabitation will entitle them to their respective halves of the money if they still want a divorce, but if they don’t try, the money will be up for litigation in court.

What Happens In Vegas is pretty much a movie where the two people in the couple start out hating each other because they are virtual strangers, but end up being together. After returning to New York they hatch a lot of plans to undermine each other so that they’ll proceed with the divorce. However, during Joy’s job retreat, the two find themselves actually developing an unexpected attraction to one another. After realizing that they are actually pretty much in love with each other, Jack makes the effort to try and win her back, getting a happy ending that sees them get both each other and the money they won in Las Vegas.

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If What Happens In Vegas feels like a formulaic rom-com movie that uses a harebrained setup to get us to a happy romantic ending, then… you’re right. You’re absolutely right. It’s even very obvious from its trailer. The title is a bit misleading; a lot of it doesn’t even happen in Las Vegas, but rather in New York. If that bothers you because you might be a fan of Las Vegas for some reason, I guess it’s a good reason to not watch, but if you like rom-coms, then this is a passable, decent watch.


Because despite the cliched developments of What Happens In Vegas, it can be said that Ashton Kutcher and Cameron Diaz bring a lot of charm and appeal to the stereotypical roles, and the supporting players in the cast (led by Lake Bell and Queen Latifah, who plays Jack and Joy’s marriage counselor) also add some much-needed energy to tired plot tropes. The director Tom Vaughan manages to get the movie into cruise control early enough, but not before he over-establishes the wackiness of a random Las Vegas trip. But of course it has to happen.

You’ll have to notice, however, that I keep mentioning how cliched What Happens In Vegas‘s plot is. That’s because it’s mostly true, and whatever saving graces its cast brings to it is still undermined by how uninspired the whole premise and execution is. The story the movie wants to tell is still pretty stupid, and no quotes stand out to remember the whole thing by.

The characters occupied by Ashton Kutcher and Cameron Diaz are a little too familiar, and bring nothing new or creative to the plot. It represents the worst of mid-2000s cinema, we suppose, and that’s pretty much all you need to know about this movie.

So should you watch What Happens In Vegas? If you come across it on a late-night channel surfing session and you’re absolutely bored out of your mind, to the point that you will put yourself through anything, then you could do worse than this movie. Plus points if you do actually like the romantic comedy genre. But there are much better entries in the genre that feature both Ashton Kutcher and Cameron Diaz, so you’d do well to seek them out. Otherwise, What Happens In Vegas is nothing more than a quick diversion, a movie made to satisfy a niche market that apparently exists. Maybe. Probably. It’s possible.

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