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Originally published May 8, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified May 8, 2008 at 12:10 PM

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Movie review

Turns out, nothing new happens in "Vegas"

So, what happens in Vegas? Pretty much what you'd expect. Uptight Joy (Cameron Diaz), devastated after being dumped by her fianc...

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 1.5 stars

"What Happens in Vegas," with Cameron Diaz, Ashton Kutcher, Rob Corddry, Treat Williams, Dennis Miller, Lake Bell. Directed by Tom Vaughan, from a screenplay by Dana Fox. 99 minutes. Rated PG-13 for some sexual and crude content and language, including a drug reference. Several theaters.

So, what happens in Vegas? Pretty much what you'd expect. Uptight Joy (Cameron Diaz), devastated after being dumped by her fiancé, heads with her best pal Tipper (Lake Bell) to Sin City, where they gamble and drink and squeal and dance on the top of bars, the way everyone does in Vegas-in-the-movies. They meet up with free-spirited Jack (Ashton Kutcher) and his buddy Hater (Rob Corddry), who are there to celebrate Jack losing his job in furniture construction yet again (fired by his dad, no less). And, because uptight women and free-spirited men always get together in the movies, Joy and Jack get together — and wake up, after a night they can't remember, to find themselves married.

All this goes down in, oh, maybe the movie's first 15 minutes or so, and then the real plot kicks in: Just as the two of them are irritably vowing to dissolve the marriage when they get home to New York, Jack drops Joy's quarter into a slot machine and wins $3 million in joint property. Back home, a judge with the mysterious name of Judge Whopper (Dennis Miller) is disgusted by their behavior and orders them, if they want to have a chance at splitting the money, to live together for six months and try to work things out. "Gay people aren't destroying the sanctity of marriage," he observes. "You people are."

As romantic-comedy premises go, this one isn't bad. But Dana Fox's screenplay waits until its final moments to develop Joy and Jack beyond their one-note personalities. She's uptight and controlling, he's slackerish and sloppy, and director Tom Vaughan spends a huge amount of time showing us Joy fussing around Jack's grungy apartment with cleaning fluid (which is about as exciting as it sounds), or the two of them trying to sabotage each other on the way to couples therapy. By the time they change — with Jack suddenly, lovingly stroking a piece of wood in the way that dedicated craftsmen in the movies always do — we've lost interest, long ago.

I was watching "My Best Friend's Wedding" again the other night (after "Made of Honor," I couldn't get it out of my head) and was struck by how good Diaz is in the movie — vulnerable, sweet, just a little goofy — and how she's rarely been that good again. Here, she's likable but seems to be phoning it in; we've seen this performance from her before (as the uptight, controlling Amanda in "The Holiday" a year and a half ago, to be exact). Kutcher is relaxed and easy, and he's got one very funny moment when he suddenly lets loose with a braying, Tom Cruise-type laugh, but mostly he just does exactly what you'd think he would. We all know what happens in Vegas — and we know, without having to watch it, what happens in this movie.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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