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Tue May 6, 2008
What Happens in Vegas . . .
Don't bet on it.
By John DeSando, WCBE's It's Movie Time
If "screwball" comedy is what What Happens in Vegas . . . attempts to be, then His Girl Friday isn't what it is; rather the audience ends up being "screwed." The genuine laughs come sparingly from a couple of marginal characters while too spare is the com part of rom/com for the principals, Cameron Diaz as trader recently fianc?- dumped Joy McNally and Ashton Kutcher as Jack Fuller, recently-fired by dad.
Jack and Joy meet in Las Vegas, get irresponsibly drunk, foolishly marry, and move quickly to divorce. But in rom/com rules, this kind of tension should breed love because although the script calls for them to be opposites, they are like enough to be eventually compatible. Overall the dialogue is adolescent and the setups condescending. Much better at this kind of comedy are recent hits such as Baby Mama; Knocked Up; Definitely, Maybe; and 40 Year Old Virgin.
The salvation of the comedy, that which saves the whole business from miserable failure, comes from the secondary leads, Rob Corddry as Hater and Lake Bell as Tipper, both of whom deliver wry comments about the principals and are better at showing their own disdain for their partner than the leads. I'm struggling to say something positive about a neo-screwball comedy that just doesn't cut it any more than Cameron Diaz can convince me she's a trader or Ashton Kutcher that he can act.
But I am an optimist, and if Miss Diaz does star in my daughter Thea's comedy 8 to 8 (Diaz has been attached to the project), I am confident her comedic skills will be fully vetted with Thea's brilliant dialogue, perfectly married to the original 9 to 5, a not-so-screwball comedy, but a legitimate comedy nonetheless. Lord knows we need more of those.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE 90.5's It's Movie Time, which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm and on demand anytime. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com