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'What Happens in Vegas': Not Much to Laugh About

This first-they-marry, then-they-fall-in-love comedy is more or less (mostly less) what you probably expect: The script sends a rigorously mismatched, separately flailing couple — slacker Jack (a puppyish Ashton Kutcher), who's just been fired, and commodities trader Joy (a frantic Cameron Diaz), who's just been dumped — off to get drunk, get hitched and get rich (her quarter, his pull of the slots handle), all in their first four hours in Sin City.

So far, so funny. But then, back in New York, a conservative, matrimony-loving judge freezes their windfall and sentences them to "six months hard marriage" before he'll even consider an annulment — or a divvying-up of the cash.

And thus a by-the-numbers rom-com is born. Alas, What Happens in Vegas ... limps through its first hour or so (where all the "com" is supposed to be) in a knockabout-slapstick mode for which director Tom Vaughan demonstrates no flair whatsoever. Still, casting will out, and the stars are appealing enough to make the making-up homestretch kinda sweet. No chemistry, mind, and precious few chuckles, but with the only romantic-comedy alternative at the moment being Made of Honor, things could definitely be worse.

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Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.