The only thing unexpected about British director Tom Vaughan's (STARTER FOR 10) Hollywood debut is the weak chemistry between two likeable actors who, on paper at least, seem perfect for each other: Cameron Diaz is the ideal guy's gal and Ashton Kutcher is, well, a guy. Together, they're a zero.
New Yorkers Joy McNally (Diaz) and Jack Fuller (Kutcher) are young, good-looking and single in Sin City: Vegas, baby. Joy, an ambitious floor trader on the New York Mercantile Exchange, has just been dumped by her fiance, Mason (Jason Sudeikis), on the doorstep of his apartment, and under spectacularly embarrassing circumstances (he had no idea all their friends were hiding right inside for his surprise birthday party). Jack, an overgrown man-child who'd just been fired by his own father (Treat Williams) from the family closet building business, can't handle any kind of responsibility or commitment. Jack and Joy are total -- and romantically antagonistic -- strangers when they are accidentally booked into the same hotel room with their respective best friends: Jack's arrived with incompetent lawyer Hater (Rob Corddry), while Joy's been dragged to Vegas by Tipper (Lake Bell), a cantankerous bartender who's determined to help her forget Mason. But by the end of a long drunken night on the Strip, Jack and Joy are much, much closer: Joy wakes up the following morning to find a tacky vending machine ring on her finger -- her wedding-ring finger. Jack, who can't handle a girlfriend, much less a wife, agrees to an annulment but after he wins the hotel's Triple Diamond Jackpot -- with Joy's quarter -- Joy insists that as Jack's wife, half of that oversized $3 million check is hers. Jack and Joy take their bitter fight back to New York courthouse where a cranky judge (Dennis Miller) decides to teach these accidental newlyweds all about the sanctity of marriage: He orders the $3 million frozen for the next six months during which time Jack and Joy will live together as husband and wife while attending marriage counseling with therapist Dr. Twitchell (Queen Latifah). Should either of them fail to comply with the court orders -- or demonstrate that they are not making the best possible effort to live up to their sacred vows -- he or she will forfeit the cash. Joy moves into Jack's rank bachelor pad and each begins scheming how to force the other out their marriage contract by making conjugal bliss as miserable as possible.
The same premise also served as a classic story arc on Friends (minus the neat jackpot twist) and there's actually quite a bit of potential there: After spending a night of fall-down-drunken honesty in Vegas, Joy and Jack should know exactly what buttons to push in each attempt to drive the other out of the marriage and the money. But instead character-driven comedy we get Kutcher pissing in the kitchen sink and dumping a bowl of Joy's popcorn down his pants, and Joy tempting Jack with a parade of hotties. And when (spoiler alert) Jack and Joy finally realize they really love each other, it's not entirely clear why, other than the fact that Joy likes that he coaches Little League and Jack appreciates that she thinks RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK is the best movie ever. Certainly the dead air between the stars offers no clues: The mismatch between Joy and Jack is only compounded by the fact that Diaz is a very good comic actor and Kutcher isn't. When a movie depends on supporting characters to tell the audience just how good the romantic leads are together, you know you're in trouble deep. leave a comment --Ken Fox