Jack is a good-time-Joe twentysomething who works (sort of) in his father's furniture business. He's hardly surprised when Dad fires him.
Joy is a hyper-organized stockbroker who's so rigid she plans "meetings to plan for meetings." But she hasn't planned on her live-in fiancé leaving her.
Jilted Joy and her best friend, Tipper, head to Las Vegas to drown their sorrows in booze and bad behavior. As fate and the movie's scriptwriters would have it, so do unemployed Jack and his best bud, "Hater."
The four are thrown together by a hotel mix-up, and Jack and Joy take an instant dislike to each other. But that sense of repulsion is soon replaced with a competitive one-upmanship that—when mixed with copious amounts of alcohol—turns into an evening of drunken debauchery. When the two wake in the morning, they're (gasp!) married to each other.
Decidedly hung-over, they agree that a quick annulment is the sane course of action. But then they win a $3 million slot machine jackpot and things get complicated. They both want the whole bonanza, so it's off to court. The judge determines that the newlyweds must live together and seek marital counseling for six months if they want to see any of the cash. With gritted teeth they move in together and both start plotting how to make the other crack and run screaming for the hills.
Sloshed out of their minds, Jack and Joy get hot and heavy, grappling and clutching. It's implied that they have sex. Jack's girlfriend shows up at his door wearing a provocatively form-fitting girl scout uniform. It's stated that she regularly comes over dressed in a variety of role-playing costumes for no-strings-attached sex. After this particular tryst, we see Jack shirtless and her in a lacy bra. As Jack and Joy are getting married, their two friends strip off each other's clothes and make out in an inebriated (public) sexual frenzy.
Joy and Tipper are seen on several occasions dressed only in bra and panties or a towel. And Jack and Hater are both shown shirtless in boxer shorts. In Vegas, a number of women wear low-cut and form-fitting outfits. As a temptation for Jack, Joy arranges for a half-dozen provocatively clad women to show up at their apartment door. Jack strikes back by inviting over his guy friends, and the whole get-together becomes a party that eventually includes a male and female couple (dressed as police officers) who strip to skimpy underwear.
Joy exposes her breast to a cabbie (not the camera) as "payment" for a cab ride. When Joy attempts to change the sheets on Jack's bed, she is repulsed by the smell. Jack attributes it to all the sex he's been having with various women. The judge says to Jack and Joy, "Gay people aren't destroying the sanctity of marriage, you people are."
Crude, rude and randy jokes are traded about anal sex, lesbian sex, group sex, masturbation, male and female anatomy, fetishes and intentionally giving people an STD. Jack and Joy's boss repeatedly riff on each other's names, turning them into sexual slang.
To help Jack play the part of an abused spouse, his friends punch him in the face. He later shows up with a black eye. Other violence includes a number of pratfalls performed by Jack and Joy. For example, Joy drunkenly slides her way down a bar counter top and falls off onto the floor. The two push and shove each other, causing jarring tumbles, scraped elbows and upended street vendors as each tries to get to an appointment first.
Joy roughly grabs Jack's (clothed) crotch in one scene and pelts him there with an orange in another. She also hits him in the head a few times with citrus projectiles, causing him to crash his skateboard. Just for meanness, Tipper punches a man hard in the crotch. When Hater tries to kiss her, she smacks his face. A huge fight breaks out when the guys and girls first discover they're all in the same hotel room. They hit, slap, shove and throw lamps at each other.
Drug and Alcohol Content
People are tossing back alcohol in one form or another in nearly three-quarters of the scenes. Jack has built a bar that dominates the middle of his apartment, so when he and his friends are there, they invariably have a beer or a glass of alcohol in hand. Joy goes to a company retreat that features a picnic and gala evening event: Alcohol flows freely at both.
But the biggest binge-fest takes place in Vegas where Joy leads crowds of people in a sloppy drinking game and everyone is staggering around drunk. When Joy and Jack get married, they do so with slurred speech and a need to lean on each other to stay upright.
A big deal is made of Joy's special talent for using a knife to slice off the top of champagne bottles. Joy and Jack slug champagne straight from a bottle. (It's not one she's cut!)
Jack mixes a handful of caffeine pills into Joy's morning drink—which makes her highly agitated. He makes a crack about a bag of weed.
Other Negative Elements
A song lyric reads, "I'd rather go to h--- than shake your hand and wish you well." Jack states that "marriage is an outdated concept."
You're encouraged to gag (or cheer, depending on which character you identify with) when Jack gropes himself, then manhandles Joy's popcorn. Tired of wrangling over toilet seats and bathroom privileges with Joy, Jack urinates in the sink. (We see everything except his specific body parts.)
"I'm really interested in stories about finding love or getting to know someone through dysfunction or adversity," says screenwriter Dana Fox. "I first came up with this story abouttwo people who strangely get to know each other while divorcing. Around that time, I kept hearing the phrase 'What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas' and thought, if it wasn't already taken, it would make a great title for a film. Then, out of nowhere, Britney Spears goes and gets married in Las Vegas. And it's like, yeah—one of the things you can do in Vegas is get married on a whim, sometimes even to a total stranger. Of course, the other thing you can do there is win a ton of money. And then it hit me: What if both of those things happened on the same night?"
Wondering if What Happens in Vegas could actually be as salaciously weak as that stated inspiration—and its ads suggest? In a word, yep. And Fox shouldn't object too much to that abrupt assessment since she went on to say, "I love people who speak their minds, and that's my favorite thing about both of the 'best friend' characters, Tipper and Hater."
So, by all means, I'll continue: At best, Vegas boasts a few straggling jokes about male/female differences and some slapstick, goofy struggles between two attractive stars who end up agreeing that marriage might not be as useless as they'd imagined.
At worst—and 90 percent of the material resides here—it's a torpid eye roller that promotes premarital sex while reinforcing the lie that a Vegas weekend of reckless gambling, loopy partying and bleary-eyed drunkenness will not only help you forget your many troubles and give you a new lease on your love life but leave you gleefully rolling in the cash when it's all over.