STAY IN VEGAS, PLEASE
published May 9,
Happens in Vegas
now playing nationwide
I made a mistake a couple of years ago that
I would like to admit. I enjoyed an Ashton Kutcher movie.
Actually, it wasn’t a mistake. A Lot Like Love, with Kutcher and Amanda Peet, remains one of my favorite assembly line romantic comedies
since I got my film critic cap. While somewhat undermined by a cookie-cutter bad-timing premise, the movie actually cared about its characters
as something more than random slapstick generators. Which makes it stand out, given the genre.
It also boasted a competent director
(Calendar Girls’ Nigel Cole) who located in Kutcher an awkward Midwestern innocence, a little Henry
Fonda-like, that only emerges if you shake well. He also got Kutcher to tone down his sit-com mugging. It was almost like he was a real actor.
Happens in Vegas is a step backward – way, way backward. And it doesn’t bother to
be hush-hush about it. In fact, it’s not hush-hush about it at all.
This Kutcher-Cameron Diaz pairing stumbles
over more than the word “cinematography.” I can recap the plot in two-word sentences. Watch: She’s dumped. He’s fired. Vegas calls. Get drunk.
Get hitched. Win big. Attempt Splitsville. Judge denies. Unhappily ever after. OK, OK, that last one has three. And it’s not actually a
Actually, this is a pretty good concept.
You have American values in opposition to American dreams. In the hands of Howard Hawks it might have amounted to something quite splendid.
But Dear Reader, perhaps it hasn’t escaped your notice – Howard Hawks is too dead to save it.
The “comedic” shrieking is on Viagra. Or Cialis. It’s in danger of needing to call the doctor for a four-hour erection. Kutcher
and Diaz grab each other’s throats like cartoon cat and mouse – peeing in the sink, setting each other up for adultery, anything that might
drive the other to leave the whole $3 million. Do these people have lives when they’re not on camera? Could anyone stay in this orgasmically
obnoxious mood for six months? Not without landing in intensive care.
Naturally, if the film goes to 11 that
means Kutcher goes to 15. And holds it. The whole time. The mugging is back. The blinking never
left. I worry about his blood pressure.
Yet in the final 10 minutes, Kutcher reels
back the innocence. The ending is complete balderdash, but at least he seems sincere. And it’s at a moment like this that one could wonder if
in a parallel universe, his identical twin cousin Ashley Kutcher might not be earning a living as a competent romantic lead.
Then the extra scenes appear as the credits
roll. He’s right back to shouting, pointing, mugging, and annoying. Oh well.
kevinbowen @ stageandcinema.com