'What Happens in Vegas' is the kind of movie that I begrudging give a passable rating, if only because I could actually tolerate it thanks to the charisma of its two stars, Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher. Here is another one of those simplistic, insufferable romantic comedies whose trailer make it appear to be an endurance test, one that I would never sit through if I wasn't being paid to do so. It takes an idiotic premise and piles on a series of utterly unbelievable plot contrivances, then coasts almost completely on the likability of its two comely leads. The surprise is that, while 'What Happens in Vegas' is not even a remotely good movie, the mere presence of Diaz and Kutcher at least make it a barely-watchable timewaster.
The story is on the level of a TV sitcom. Diaz is Joy McNally, a beautiful and success thirtysomething engaged to schlubby Mason (Jason Sudeikis) who she feels she isn't good enough for. Kutcher is Jack Fuller, an aimless but lovable loser who's dropped out of the game of life and covets his status as "not exactly being ideal husband material." After Mason dumps McNally, she heads to Vegas with a friend (Lake Bell), and after a few too many beers, runs into Jack and -- presto! -- they get married. Then, in a completely unbelievable "twist," they break-up the next day, share a slot machine, and win $3,000,000 dollars. But there's no time for a honeymoon as they quickly head to court, where the judge assigns them to an "enforced marriage" of six months, after which they must decide if they are to stay together, and who gets what.
I'm now going to reveal the entire rest of the movie (skip this paragraph if you don't want spoilers), if only because anyone who has seen more than two movies should know exactly where 'What Happens in Vegas' is going from its first scene. The character arcs of Joy and Jack are painfully obvious -- how much do you wanna bet that Joy will finally reclaim her self-esteem, while teaching Jack that he even has any? That Mason will re-enter the picture just in time to try and win Joy back the minute she realizes she loves Jack? And that somehow, all of this will work out, happily ever after, and that our happy couple is now -- conveniently -- $3,000,000 richer?
What's hard to admit about a movie like 'What Happens in Vegas' is that its cookie-cutter narrative is what makes it cinematic comfort food. What I found meagerly enjoyable is not where the Diaz and Kutcher characters end up, but the desperate silliness on behalf of the filmmakers to get them there. Though both actors overplay it -- Diaz in particularly has been stretching out her karaoke scene from 'My Best Friend's Wedding' into an entire career now for ten years -- they actually seem to believe these cliches are original and invest them with gusto. Also winning in supporting roles are Bell, who though underused, is right on-target with her zingers, and Rob Corddry as Jack's best friend, who comes off as a less vulgar but still funny version of Jim Belushi's character in 'About Last Night.' (It's telling that his chemistry with Bell is actually better than that between Diaz and Kutcher.)
Had I paid to see 'What Happens in Vegas' in the theater, none of these minor pleasures would have been enough to recommend the movie. It's still a preposterous farce whose cheap jokes and obvious story twists only underscore the emptiness of the enterprise. Even a surprise cameo by Queen Latifah as a marriage counselor can't save a sinking comedy ship that ultimately mires itself in third-act gooey sentimentality (and also proves that like her fellow Oscar honoree Cuba Gooding Jr., Latifah will take just about any role for a paycheck). But thanks to the lower standards of the home theater (hey, a Blu-ray rental is only about $3 at your local Blockbuster), I will dare to say that Diaz and Kutcher are a baseline reason to see 'What Happens in Vegas.'
'What Happens in Vegas' comes to Blu-ray in a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (2.40:1), spread across a BD-50 dual-layer disc. Just like the movie itself (and Las Vegas, for that matter), the transfer is loud, bright, and obnoxious.
The film's visual style appears to be geared for maximum eye-pop-ability. Colors are pumped up to a degree that fleshtones look waxy and fake. There is also a yellow cast to the palette, which adds a sickly feel, though primary colors can be quite vivid. Nighttime scenes actually fair the best, with the deep blacks off-setting the harsh contrast and mushy colors. The transfer remains fairly detailed throughout, though again, there's an artificial air to the presentation. Shadow delineation is hampered somewhat by noticeable black crush. Fox has produced a clean encode, however, with only a hint of edge enhancement but otherwise no major issues. 'What Happens in Vegas' is not a tremendous transfer, but it's decent enough.
Fox presents 'What Happens in Vegas' in DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 Surround (48kHz/24-bit). For a standard romantic comedy the sound design is lively, even if this soundtrack is ultimately nothing special or noteworthy.
Surrounds are moderately engaged. Discrete effects pop in during the early casino scenes and a couple of party moments, though even here there are only sporadic bursts of activity and mild score bleed. The frequent use of pop/party songs could also have been more pronounced. Tech specs are up to snuff, with a nicely polished feel with clean highs and low bass that's appropriate to the nature of the material. Dialogue sounds distinct and well-mixed, and is the most prominent feature of the track.
A glitzy batch of bonus features is provided for 'What Happens in Vegas,' which is here billed as the "Extended Jackpot Edition." In addition to the unrated cut of the film (which features a few racier bon mots and situations, but no major content additions), we get surface-level video material that's at least mostly presented in 1080i/AVC MPEG-4 video. (Optional subtitles are provided in English, French, Spanish, and Korean.)
'What Happens in Vegas' is an arch, over-played comedy, yet one that kinda sucked me in and kept me entertained. (Note to Ashton Kutcher and Cameron Diaz, however -- you're not as charming as you both seem to think, so tone it down a little next time, okay?) This Blu-ray is serviceable, with solid if unexceptional video and audio, and standard-issue supplements. 'What Happens in Vegas' is probably not worth a purchase, but should amuse as a rental.