What Happens In Vegas (2008)

Rated: PG-13 for some sexual and crude content, and language, including a drug reference.
Length: 99 minutes
Grade: BCB+B=B
Budget: $35 million
Box Office: $223 million ($80 US, $131 Intl., $12 DVD)

Written by: Dana Fox, whose only previous work was the screenplay for the fairly entertaining Wedding Date.
Directed by: Tom Vaughan, who has mostly done a little television writing before.
Starring: Cameron Diaz, Ashton Kutcher, Rob Corddry, Lake Bell, Treat Williams, Dennis Miller, Dennis Farina, and Queen Latifah.

Jack just lost his job, and Joy just lost her fiancĂ©e, so they both head to Vegas with their best friends and wind up married after much alcohol. In the morning, Jack wins a 3 million dollar jackpot with her quarter, and the judge won’t grant them a divorce unless they promise to work on their marriage for 6 months.

Entertainment Value: B
It was dodgy at first, but Ashton Kutcher certainly has a knack for comedy, and we laughed many times throughout this movie. The plot is not totally unbelievable, and the cameos make it better than it would have been without them.

Superficial Content: C
Drugs/Alcohol C, Sexuality B, Violence B, Language C, Illegality NA
Alcohol, certainly, is an issue here, especially in the beginning. There are sexual scenes and temptations offered, but nothing is shown other than in the beginning. A woman jokes about punching men in the groin a lot and does so at the end. The language and general vulgarity is definitely PG-13 caliber.

Significant Content: B+
Though I’m tempted to go higher, precisely because this is my favorite category of movie: one with the right conclusions that will be watched mostly by the people who most need to hear them. There are only two messages here: immature men need to grow up and stop acting like children, and marriage is about working it out not about compatibility.

Artistic/Thought Value: B
I originally had this as a C, but I upgraded it because I’m beginning to think Ashton Kutcher is a genius. When he does love movies, he manages to appeal to the immature audiences while delivering a pro-love, pro-marriage, pro-commitment message. This has been true in Just Married, A Lot Like Love, and Guess Who. So, a movie that doesn’t seem like high art or moral propaganda might well turn out to be effective for precisely that reason.

Discussion Questions:
~Which is more valuable: money or love? How do the characters’ answer to this question change over the course of the movie?
~Even though Jack and Joy were married when they had sex, why does it feel like this wasn’t the case? Would you consider their sexual encounter moral or immoral? Why?
~What is this movie trying to say about divorce and making a marriage work? What do you think would be the result if every couple wanting a divorce had to attend relationship counseling and prove they were really trying at it to qualify?
~Do you think it’s true that two people who are simply forced to stay together by factors outside their control can eventually learn how to love and cherish one another? If so, what does this mean for the concept of arranged marriage? If society can have such a strong impact on helping marriages work out, does this obligate the rest of us to work toward such a marriage-reinforcing culture? In this regard, evaluate the behaviors of Tipper and Hater. Are they good friends? What is the correct role of real friends in such a situation? Does it matter what caliber of friends you have?
~The movie really turns a corner when the characters are put in positions to help, serve, or understand one another more seriously. What implications does this entail for dating?
~Were the people who watched this movie likely to grasp the message that working out your problems and not being allowed to quit on the marriage can actually make things work?
~Christianity Today didn’t review this movie. Why not? Is the marketing of this movie as a debauched comedy good for the real audience that needs to watch it?
~Does this movie teach the idea that marriage has a domesticating, maturing effect on men? Do you believe this is true in real life?
~Las Vegas has famously marketed itself with the slogan, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” How does this movie respond? Is the idea of a moral holiday healthy for people?
~Is there a connection in this movie between the two characters moving toward jobs that they really value and their changing attitudes about each other? What do you think it's trying to say about meaning, passion, and superficiality?
Overall Grade: B
Fairly entertaining, definitely good lessons, and a movie that succeeded at the box office with a lot of people who needed to see it.

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