Not surprisingly, several theaters in Las Vegas hosted “sneak previews” of “What Happens in Vegas” tonight. I couldn’t resist, partly because it’s my self-appointed duty to report on movies with “Vegas” in the title, and partly because I was curious to see how many people would turn up to see it in a neighborhood cineplex.
I was one of maybe fifty people who chose to see “What Happens in Vegas” at a theater on the south side of town. At ten o’clock, it was apparently too late for the teenage date crowd—the audience was mainly over-the-hillers, gay couples, and loners.
Whoever was expecting more than a predictable romantic farce was most certainly disappointed, but I doubt that anyone was. I certainly had no expectations, which meant Ashton Kutcher’s performance as the ne’er-do-well son who ultimately turns out to be perfect husband material for the just-dumped Cameron Diaz was a pleasant surprise.
Diaz didn’t have to exert any effort to look like a hard-partying babe, though she was less successful at pulling off the role of savvy businesswoman. But really, who cares? She and Kutcher were good enough, as was the script, even though there was nothing original about the “It Happened One Night” plot. Freshened up with new gags and clever dialogue, getting to the big kiss at the end was a jolly journey. And I’d give that happy-ever-after kiss at least a nine, because Kutcher is a remarkably good actor, and Diaz is still hot.
But I’m not here to talk about the large issues of cinematic worthiness. I’m here for Vegas, baby, and this film not only has Vegas in the title, it’s got half of our wildly successful slogan. “What Happens in Vegas.” Really, how could I stay away?
The premise of the movie does indeed require scenes in Las Vegas. The characters played by Kutcher and Diaz have both escaped to “Sin City” to drown their sorrows following major personal disasters. Serious partying leads to a drunken wedding, but the big plot thickener occurs when Kutcher slips one last quarter into a slot machine in Planet Hollywood, and—yeah, you can see this coming—the resulting jackpot is worth three million dollars. “It’s my quarter,” says Diaz. “I put it in the slot,” says Kutcher.
Okay, so here’s the Vegas commentary for what it’s worth (probably less than a quarter). You can’t put a coin into a slot machine at Planet Hollywood. They all take paper money or plastic these days. If you go to Fremont Street and search around in the smoky recesses of someplace like the Golden Gate, you might still find machines that take filthy lucre in metal form, but on the Strip? No. Sad for cinema, but that’s progress.
Most of “What Happens in Vegas” doesn’t happen in Vegas. In fact, it mostly happens in New York. Even so, at the end, there’s a flashback to the drunken wedding that started it all. The wedding itself could easily occur in any one of a number of establishments on North Las Vegas Boulevard. Even though there are supposed to be rules against debauched nuptials, money overcomes a lot of impairment, and weddings like the one in the movie are only as uncommon as bottomless pocketbooks.
But there was something in the scene that simply could not happen in a real Vegas wedding chapel. The comic sidekick plants a big kiss on the bride in the wedding party that’s next in line. In real life, two wedding parties never overlap. The chapels have clever architecture and fierce wedding planners to ensure such encounters do not occur. Yeah, you can get married with your judgment impaired, but you’ll never, ever see another happy couple when you do. Until you get to the row of waiting limos outside at the curb, you’re the only people on the planet. Does this matter to the story? Not in the least. I’m just being a picky local.
This movie actually did a pretty good job of portraying a basic palette of Las Vegas stereotypes. Given the title, I was slightly surprised that “What Happens in Vegas” didn’t stay in Vegas longer. Regardless, it’s a funny piece of slapstick with plenty of things to laugh at. If you see it, be sure to stick around for the credits, because there’s one last scene at the very end that’s worth the wait.