Judge Gordon Sullivan took a bus from Venus to Vegas. What a trip!
Let the chips fall where they may
Generally speaking, I'm a fan of letting a film stand on its own merits. The extra-cinematic stuff—whether the co-stars were dating, how the budget was raised—doesn't really enter into the appreciation of the actual feature. Sometimes there are red flags, though. One of the biggest is delay. Most companies that make or finance films are on a fiscal cycle that rewards output. Often it's better for a film to underperform now so the loss can be written off, rather than waiting for a slightly more successful release time. There are, of course, exceptions (The Cabin in the Woods is a great recent example), but if a film sits on the shelf for more than a year, chances are that it should have stayed there. When a film spends half a decade on the shelf before getting release, it's best to just avoid it all together. Such is the case with Venus and Vegas, which should have stayed buried.
Three low-level gangsters in Las Vegas decide to rob an aging mobster of a cache of counterfeit chips. He gets revenge by kidnapping one of them (Eddie Kaye Thomas, American Pie) and holding him hostage for the return of his chips. Hijinks inevitably ensue.
The internet seems to suggest that Venus and Vegas was made in 2007, and had some kind of release in 2010 before making its home video debut in 2013. That means the flick was six years old before it was seen by more than a couple dozen people. If the movie were a child, it would be ready for kindergarten, which is kind of appropriate, cause that's about where the level of humor and competence on display is at in this lackluster flick.
The most galling thing about Venus and Vegas is that the basic premise has potential. The idea of a kind of bizarro-world Ocean's Eleven with a trio of incompetent small-time crooks sounds funny on paper. Throw in a handful of decent actors (including Eddie Kaye Thomas, Jon Polito, and even Florence Henderson) and something funny should emerge. The trouble with Venus and Vegas is that nothing does.
Part of the problem is that the film relies too much on cliché. Of course the small-timers are man-children in the best tradition of adolescent comedians. Of course they're motivated in their larceny by their relationships with women. Ho-hum. It gives the writers an excuse to show a bit of flesh, but adds very little to the comedy of the film. The other big problem is that what comedy there is, is juvenile. When it's part of a mix of comedic styles, I don't mind the occasional lowbrow joke, but the closes thing that Venus and Vegas does to high comedy is give Eddie Kaye Thomas some goofy facial expressions.
At least Venus and Vegas (Blu-ray) isn't a total failure. The 1.78:1/1080p AVC-encoded transfer is unremarkable in the best possible sense. The cinematography is sharp, well-lit, and free of artifacts. Black levels are deep and noise-free, while all the colors of the Vegas rainbow pop appropriately. The DTS-HD 5.1 audio track is a little less remarkable. Dialogue is clean and clear, but the whole presentation isn't particularly exciting. As a comedy, there isn't much use for the surrounds, and though clarity is fine the track lacks "oomph."
Extras start with a 22-minute making-of featurette. I assume there's someone out there who didn't get enough of this stuff with the film itself and so will subject him or herself to further experiences with the film. At least the people involved seem to be having a good time, judging by what we can see. The film's trailer is also included.
Eddie Kaye Thomas gets the lion's share of the humor in this flick, but actually there are a number of worthy comics in the film. Fans of the actors might glean something worthwhile from the juvenile "jokes" and silly plot. Perhaps I'm being overly harsh on the film, and it's really only mediocre rather than actively bad. In any case I suspect that this film will be used as a cheap addition to the roster of at least one cable channel, ensuring that the curious will be able to catch it in the pre-dawn hours at some point, which is probably the best time to view it.
Venus and Vegas is a lackluster comedy that wastes a solid cast on a silly premise that's filled to the brim with lame humor. Though the Blu-ray release is fine in terms of presentation, it's really only worth picking up for those with a fetish for Las Vegas.
What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: RLJ Entertainment
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