A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this fairly raunchy comedy starring teen faves Ashton Kutcher and Cameron Diaz revolves around a drunken, ill-advised marriage after a night of debauchery in Las Vegas. Forced to stay together due to an unexpected windfall, the leads feud, fight and argue constantly in an effort to get the other to violate their "union." There's a lot of sexual content (making out, underwear shots, breasts flashed off-camera, etc.), constant iffy (albeit inventive) language, and frequent drinking. But although there's plenty of questionable material -- including Kutcher's character feigning being the victim of spousal abuse, a topic that's hard to laugh about -- there's also a surprising amount of positive material about the nature of a real marriage and what it takes to make one work.
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What's the story?
After each suffering a setback, Jack Fuller (Ashton Kutcher) and Joy McNally (Cameron Diaz) go to Las Vegas for the opportunity to unwind; a chance meeting turns into a night of drinking ... which culminates in a hasty, booze-fueled marriage. The next day's regrets and recriminations are capped off by Jack winning a $3 million slot machine jackpot -- which is now community property. Back in New York, a judge freezes the funds and forces Jack and Joy to "try and make the marriage work." Jack and Joy then begin a cold war of plots, stratagems, and schemes to get the other to show bad faith and abdicate their half of the money, but the relationship between the two gradually thaws -- and then even warms. Could their drunken, irresponsible wedding turn out to be the foundation of a real relationship?
Is it any good?
What Happens in Vegas is a mix of sour and sweet, as Kutcher and Diaz's combat eventually turns to affection; the film also benefits from a great supporting cast. Rob Corddry, Queen Latifah, Dennis Miller, and Zach Galifianakis, among others, provide solid laughs whenever the film slows down. Director Tom Vaughan keeps the pace brisk, and that swiftness keeps What Happens in Vegas from bogging down or becoming a chore. It tries to follow the template set by Judd Apatow's recent successful comedies like The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, mixing naughty, bawdy jokes with sweeter, more sincere sentiments; while the execution may not be as impressive here as it is in Apatow's films, it's also far better than anything the Farrelly brothers (The Heartbreak Kid, Me, Myself and Irene) have made in years. What Happens in Vegas isn't a comedy jackpot, but it's hardly a losing bet.
Even as their unwelcome marriage becomes a battleground over possession of the money, anyone who doubts that Diaz's busy go-getter and Kutcher's slacker will learn from each other, come to respect each other, and, in time, have real feelings for each other has clearly never seen a romantic comedy before. Neither Kutcher nor Diaz are working much outside of their established personas here -- he's an overgrown child, and she needs to loosen up -- and their on-screen chemistry is a bit more convincing when they're angry than when they're not, but they do get a nice rhythm going.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Las Vegas' reputation -- does what happens in Vegas in fact stay in Vegas, or do actions always have consequences? Talk with your kids about some of the real-life problems caused by drinking too much. Families can also discuss how the characters' sham marriage turns into a real supportive relationship, as well as the real challenges and rewards of marriage. Finally, families can talk about the recent trend of raunchy romantic comedies -- what makes these films so popular?
- In theaters: May 7, 2008
- On DVD or streaming: August 25, 2008
- Cast: Ashton Kutcher, Cameron Diaz, Rob Corddry
- Director: Tom Vaughan
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 98 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some sexual and crude content, and language, including a drug reference.
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