The quirky charisma of Ashton Kutcher

The astute Washington Post film reviewer Stephen Hunter wrote a funny review of “What Happens in Vegas” last weekend in which he quickly gave up trying to analyze the appeal of leading man Ashton Kutcher.
Hunter’s conclusion — basically — was, like it or not, Kutcher is a genuine movie star of the ’00s.
“Vegas” was trashed by many critics, but I found myself warming up to it as it went along, mostly because of the genuine sexual and romantic chemistry of Kutcher and Cameron Diaz.
The movie starts off very badly, with both stars overdoing their distress at losing a job (Kutcher’s dilemma) and being dumped by a boyfriend (Diaz’s shock).
They go to Vegas — separately — meet not-so-cute in the midst of drunken carousing and wind up getting married in the middle of their stupors. Shame-faced the next day, they agree to split, until he wins $3 million out of a slot machine, and she decides — since he used her quarter — that half of the money is hers.
Back in New York, a judge forces them to stay married (and live together) until they’ve gone through a series of counseling sessions.
If you can make it through the first 20 or 25 minutes, “What Happens in Vegas” starts to fall into place as a sort-of-remake of “The More the Merrier,” the 1943 farce in which Jean Arthur and Joel McCrea fell in love after being forced to share a tiny Washington, D.C. apartment (during the World War II housing shortage).
I’m not suggesting that “Vegas” is in the same league as the George Stevens classic, but the situation is similar and the two stars share Arthur and McCrea’s ability to downplay their good looks and to pull off physical comedy bits as well as sexy clinches.
Kutcher is a very attractive guy, but he never acts as if he knows it — the woefully underrated Joel McCrea had the same trait — so he can get away with playing the slobby anti-hero who wishes the uptight businesswoman played by Diaz would simply go away.
By the end of the movie, I was rooting for both characters, and believed in their hard-won love match. If the script got them together faster and without such low-brow antics in Lost Wages, the movie could have been wonderful rather than a near-miss.