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‘Honeymoon in Vegas’

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
August 28, 1992


Andrew Bergman
James Cann;
Nicolas Cage;
Sarah Jessica Parker;
Anne Bancroft;
Peter Boyle;

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You can have your Mel Gibsons, your Tom Cruises and your Luke Perrys. For my money, Nicolas "Wild at Heart" Cage is the epitome of amorous obsession. Sure he looks vaguely like the Road Runner on Quaaludes, but ain't nobody gonna love you like the "Moonstruck" one. He'll knock heads, kidnap babies or, as in his latest laugh-out-loud valentine, "Honeymoon in Vegas," break a promise to his dying mother -- that he'll never marry.

In this wacky but eminently watchable kitsch-mobile, Cage, as Jack Singer, finds it hard to do the boy thing -- make a commitment -- to the woman he loves, Betsy (Sarah Jessica Parker). There's the deathbed oath to consider as well as all the cheating hearts he's met as a private dick who specializes in divorce cases. Sensing that he is about to lose Betsy, he gulps hard and gives in to her wishes to wed. Afraid of losing his nerve, the reluctant bridegroom suggests they fly to the quickie marriage capital and binge gambling oasis of the world, where they can do the deed in under an hour. Still, once they arrive at Bally's -- host to a convention of Elvis impersonators -- Jack continues to delay the nuptials. As fate (a k a the screenwriter) would have it, a shiny-suited wise guy named Tommy Korman (James Caan) notices Betsy as she and Jack check in at Bally's (for which the movie is virtually a commercial). A blonde stacked like a tower of winning chips, Betsy is the image of the hood's late wife. (She tanned herself to death, he confides: "Had skin like a saddlebag.")

Still mad with grief, Tommy plots to borrow Betsy from Jack, whom he suckers into making a foolish $65,000 bet in a poker game. It's only for the weekend, and Tommy promises to be a perfect gentleman. In any case, it is an offer neither of them can refuse. Betsy's initial resistance fades when Tommy whisks her off to his lush ocean-side retreat in Kauai, where he plays the courtly suitor. In the meantime, Jack realizes that he must win back his fiancee -- even if it means sleeping with the fishes in cement pajamas or jumping out of a plane with a flock of flying Elvises.

Caan makes a superbly slimy foil for Cage's passionate but perplexed naif of a he-man. The knowing father figure vs. the pedestrian innocent is a staple of writer-director Andrew Bergman, who previously pitted a green kid against a Mafia don in "The Freshman." While he clearly dotes on his nicely drawn characters, including a lunatic fringe of minor zanies, he never quite persuades us that "loaning" Betsy out isn't icky. "You've made me into a whore," she screams, and she's right -- Bergman has. But then look at what "Pretty Woman" did for Julia Roberts's career.

Parker, who debuted as the wiggly salesgirl in "L.A. Story," is surrounded by a lunatic fringe of irresistibly silly minor characters. These include Jon Polito as a client of Jack's who's convinced his wife is fooling around with Mike Tyson, Pat Morita as a fishy Kauaian cabby and Peter Boyle as a senile Hawaiian chief who sings a couple of his favorite tunes from "South Pacific."

Well, the chief may be working with an empty coconut, but he's got one thing right: "Honeymoon in Vegas" is a Bally high, a hectic riot that tickles like those tiny bubbles Don Ho is always singing about. Or as the King might say if he hadn't left for the big casino in the sky: "Viva!"

"Honeymoon in Vegas" is rated PG-13 for sensuality.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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