I just watched Honeymoon in Vegas for the first time since it was released in 1992. I am a big fan of writer-director Andrew Bergman, who wrote one of my very favorite films, The In-Laws. He has also written other films that I’m not as fond of, but which have very funny scripts: Soapdish, Fletch, and Blazing Saddles. As a director, he has been less successful. Still, he has had some notable successes. In particular, there is The Freshman and the wrongly maligned Striptease.
My biggest complaint with narrative comedy is that the comedy tends to die in the third act. This is as true of novels (e.g. Something Happened) as it is of movies (e.g. Silver Streak). It is not an easy problem to deal with. The writer needs to tie up all of the plot and it is hard to continue to be funny. Bergman does not have this problem. His scripts keep pushing the comedy throughout.
And that is as true of Honeymoon in Vegas as it is any of his others. The third act is by far the funniest part of the film. Unfortunately, there is relatively little comedy in those first two acts. And most of that involves Nicolas Cage’s over-to-top performance. But that would all be fine; I’m okay waiting for a story to set up all its pins to watch them be knocked over at the end. The problem with this film is the narrative itself.
The basic story is that a gangster falls in love with the bride of a couple about to be married in Vegas. The gangster gets the groom involved in a crooked card game and uses the groom’s losses to try to steal the bride for himself. The plot depends far too much on the bride and groom being very easily deceived. But the main thing is that it is hard for the viewer to like the couple very much. There is a critical scene about halfway through the film where the gangster tells the bride that the amount the groom owed was not $65,000 (the truth) but rather only $3000. On the one hand, it is hard to have too much sympathy for the groom who was both greedy and stupid. But the fact that the bride accepted this lie so easily is also annoying.
In the end, we are left with a film about three people who we really don’t care about. And it all seems that this contrived and annoying story has been put together for the sake of what is, admittedly, a great third act. But I know what Bergman is capable of. I feel that if he had written this screenplay at the start of his career, he would have worked on it more—A lot more!—before he showed it to anyone.