January 12, 2013

Honeymoon in Vegas (1992)
Starring Nicolas Cage, James Caan, and Sarah Jessica Parker

Comments:  I know that it has become very trendy in recent years to make fun of Nicolas Cage.  People love to make fun of the fact that he A) will star in any movie that is offered to him, as long as there is a paycheck involved, B) has no nuance in his acting style whatsoever, everything he says is either whispering or screaming, and C) is so over the top and cartoony that it is almost impossible to ever take him seriously as an actor.

Yes. I will admit that there have been a lot of valid criticisms leveled at Nicolas Cage.  And yes, I will admit that in recent years he has made a lot of shitty movies.  And yes, I wil admit that he is kind of an acquired taste.

But for the purposes of my list, that sort of stuff doesn't matter.  Because I have always loved Honeymoon in Vegas.  And Nicolas Cage is absolutely PERFECT for Honeymoon in Vegas.  

Nobody else could have pulled off the over-the-top frantic yelling/panicking/freaking out/running/screaming role quite like he did.

Nicolas Cage mid meltdowns

If you have never seen Honeymoon in Vegas before, the plot of it is thus.  Jack Singer (Nicolas Cage) is a man who is terrified to get married.  And this is probably because his dying mother made him make a promise.  On her deathbed, on her dying day, she made him swear to her that he would never get married.  Because in his dear old mother's eyes, "no woman will truly make you happy" and "you don't want that kind of pain in your life."

So Jack has this dark cloud of doom hanging over his head for most of his life.  He is never supposed to get married.  He is never supposed to get married because his loving mother made him promise that he would never do it in honor of her.

Jack promising his mother that he will never get married

And then things change.

Jack meets a wonderful girl named Betsy Nolan (Sarah Jessica Parker).  And, well, as young couples do, they fall in love and Betsy wants to get married.  But Jack can't do it.  He can't do it because he promised his mother.

So Betsy begs him.  And she pleads.  And she cajoles.  And she threatens to break up.

And then, finally, Jack relents and he gives in.  Okay, he says, we can get married, but we have to do it fast.  We have to do it right now this weekend before I change my mind.  So they plan to run off to Las Vegas and get married in a quickie little wedding on the Strip.  And then when that is over they can come back to New York and they can have a honeymoon like a normal married couple.

Jack and Betsy in Las Vegas

And this is where the comedy of the movie comes in.

Jack and Betsy go to Las Vegas, and when they are waiting to check in the lobby of the Bally Hotel, they are noticed by a famous gambler named Tommy Korman (James Caan).  Korman takes one look at Betsy and he realizes she is the spitting image of his beloved wife that he lost to cancer a couple of years ago.  He sees her and he is instantly smitten in love.  And once he sees her, the most famous and powerful gambler in Las Vegas immediately comes up with a plan.  He is going to do everything in his power to steal Betsy from Jack, and win her for himself.

Tommy Korman

This is where the most famous scene in the movie comes in.  Tommy Korman invites Jack to play a "friendly" game of poker, that has theoretically been set up by Bally for their out of town guests.  And, well, since Tommy is a hardcore professional gambler who never loses, and Jack is a yokel, Tommy totally cleans him out.  After a couple of hours Jack Singer now owes Tommy Korman something like a hundred thousand dollars.

Well at this point Jack knows he is fucked.  He doesn't have that kind of money.  And he knows that if you owe that kind of money to a professional gambler you are liable to get your kneecaps broken.  Or worse.

But then Tommy comes up with a plan.  Out of the goodness of his heart, he offers to erase all of Jack's debts if Jack will allow him to borrow his girlfriend for the weekend.  Come on, he says, just let me hang out with Betsy for two days.  Then afterwards you can have her back and you two can get married and you can go back to New York.  And after that all your debts will be erased and you won't owe me anything, no questions asked.

And from this point on, we immediately jump into frantic Nicolas Cage screaming comedy mode.

Tommy Korman explaining the realities of Jack's situation to him

Jack trying to explain to Betsy that he lost her in a poker game

Seriously, I understand why people hate Nicolas Cage movies.  I understand it.  He really has never been a great dramatic actor.  With that face, and those mannerisms, and those eyebrows, it is nearly impossible to take him seriously.  And yes, of course all the whispering and screaming and random outbursts and freak outs certainly don't help.

But again.  That is what makes him absolutely PERFECT for Honeymoon in Vegas.  It is one of those rare movies where the story and the action and the dialogue and the style just match the actor PERFECTLY.

I can name about 20 great Nicolas Cage moments in this movie.  And they are only moments that Nicolas Cage could have ever pulled off.  Whether they are quotes, or mannerisms, or just some frustrated look he gives to the camera, he just owns this movie nearly every single minute he is on screen.  Especially when he gets back to Betsy and they start arguing.  I mean, my goodness, I haven't seen this movie in nearly five years and I can probably reel off ten great Cage quotes off the top of my head just from that one scene alone.

Jack Singer: Do you know what a straight flush is? It's... like... unbeatable.
Betsy: "Like unbeatable" is not unbeatable.
Jack Singer [screaming]: HEY, I KNOW THAT NOW! OKAY?

(I love this entire next exchange.  This is Cage at his best)

Jack Singer: Betsy, hi, so what's the story?
Betsy: I have to pack.
Jack Singer [happy]: We can leave! What did you work out?
Betsy: Um, he's taking me to Hawaii. It's only for a few days.
Jack Singer: Come on. You're so like bliiiiiithe about this all of a sudden, LIKE YOU DON'T GIVE A DAMN!
Betsy: Of course I give a damn but this was not my idea okay, Jack. Poker was not my idea.
Jack Singer: Would you please stop CRUCIFYING ME with this?
Betsy: Where's my bag?
Jack Singer: He's going to jump all over you the second he gets there.
Betsy: I won't let him. Oh please, Jack, give me a little credit.
Jack Singer: He'll overcome you. What happens if you start screaming? IT'S LIKE A JUNGLE OVER THERE!. He probably has servants and bodyguards and believe... me... THEY... WILL DRUG YOU!!!
Betsy: His son is going to be there, Jack. His granddaughter Tiffany will be there.
Jack Singer: She knows the kid's name already. Listen, you'll be back Monday?
Betsy: I don't know. Probably Tuesday or Wednesday.
Betsy: What, you expect us to fly back and forth to Hawaii in 2 days?
Jack Singer: "Us"? Already it's "us".
Betsy: Oh don't be infantile. I'm trying to make the best of this.

"You turned me into a whore, Jack!  You took me to Las Vegas and you turned me into a whore!"

Besides being a movie that is perfectly tailored for the spazziness of Nicolas Cage (seriously, I can't overstate how perfect this role is for him), the other thing that is significant about Honeymoon in Vegas is the soundtrack.  As many people have pointed out in the IMDB user reviews, Honeymoon in Vegas has one of the best movie soundtracks of the past 30 years.  It is just chock full of Elvis hit after Elvis hit after Elvis hit.  Only they aren't the original Elvis hits.  They are all modern covers sung by artists in the 90's.  And they give this movie a fun, rocking, Las Vegas feel that really sort of elevates it into something that is better than it should be.

I remember when Honeymoon in Vegas first came out in 1992, the very first thing I did was I went out and I bought the soundtrack.  Because it is that good.  In fact I owned the soundtrack for years before I ever actually owned the movie.  I eventually came around and bought the movie too, but that was only because I loved the soundtrack so much.

Oh and hey, quick Honeymoon in Vegas music trivia note.  All throughout the movie, there are scenes with random Elvis impersonators scattered throughout the background.  There are old Elvises, there are young Elvises, there are black Elvises, there is even a Hindu Elvis.  And then at one point we even get to see a performance by a little kid Elvis.

Little kid Elvis

Well my brother Dominic was amazed by this kid.  For years, whenever we talked about Honeymoon in Vegas, my brother would always say the same thing.  He would always say "That movie was hilarious, but that little kid Elvis was my favorite.  That kid was amazing.  He sang just like Elvis."

It turns out years later that that little kid grew up to be Bruno Mars.  True story.  Bruno Mars who would later become an enormous singing star, and a guy who owned celebrity music impressions on Saturday Night Live.

My brother was probably the first big Bruno Mars fan in America.  And at the time, Bruno was only about five years old.

Young Bruno Mars rocks your world

In short, if you hate Nicolas Cage, if you have no idea why he is a movie star, or why he ever even became a movie star, then you need to watch Honeymoon in Vegas.  Because this movie will answer that for you.  

Yes, Nicolas Cage whispers and screams and is cartoony and over the top in a lot of movies, but in Honeymoon in Vegas he is just PERFECT.  This was a movie that was made for an actor like him.  He has so many great quotes and one liners and screaming panic attacks that after a while it more or less just becomes a Nicolas Cage movie.  There is no one else in Honeymoon in Vegas after a while.  You are just sitting there waiting for Nicolas Cage to freak out about something trivial and start screaming again.

In fact, I think it is safe to say that he owns this movie as completely and as perfectly as Bill Murray owned Meatballs.  This is his movie.  And if you don't like him after watching him at his peak in Honeymoon in Vegas, well then I don't know what to tell you.  I doubt it will be possible for you to ever like him.

Nicolas Cage sulking with Mister Miyagi

Honeymoon in Vegas was a modest hit when it came out in 1992.  It made some money, it got a couple of fans, but it was nothing special.  No one ever talked about it as being one of the funnier movies of the 90's.  But the more I watch it, the more I appreciate it, the more fun it is to watch Nicolas Cage panic and scream and FREAK OUT, the more I realize that it should have developed a much better reputation than it did.  

To quote the late comedian Mitch Hedberg after one of his jokes bombed on stage, "That joke was a lot better than you acted."  That is the same way I feel about Honeymoon in Vegas.  It is not a masterpiece of a movie by any stretch of the imagination, but it sure does well what it was trying to do well.  And I think it should be more beloved than it currently is.  It might be a little movie, but it is a unique and memorable and quirky and most importantly FUN little movie.  And of course the quotable and rewatchable potential of Honeymoon in Vegas is practically off the charts.

Again, if you don't appreciate Nicolas Cage after watching this movie, I don't know what to tell you.  This is as good as he gets.

Come on Jack.  Just a simple friendly game of poker.  You can't lose.

* My favorite IMDB user reviews about Honeymoon in Vegas

Funny and original -  31 October 2001
Like in "Guarding Tess", I think this is where Nicolas Cage is at his best, although this one takes the cake as far as his comedies go.

A well-written, well-acted all around, original movie with some truly hilarious moments and enough drama and complexity to make it a solid, worth-your-while experience.

James Caan is perfect as the love-stricken gangster, and his object of affection, Sarah Jessica Parker, is also great as the fiance who slowly begins to come around to his advances. (She's also quite easy to look at I might add).

Everything goes wrong for Cage, as he races across hell and high water trying to catch up with the girl he wants to marry, but of course wacky high-jinx ensues. Hey, if nothing else, you can't go wrong with Las Vegas and Hawaii as your two main locations. A very good, funny film.

One of the best!! - 11 August 1999
I can't believe this film didn't score higher in the ratings. This film is one of my all-time favorite movies. Ever. Cage has remarkable comic timing! The scene at the airport ticket counter is priceless! This is a great film with excellent performances throughout. It never slows, never lets up and tickles your funny bone all the way till the Elvis' come to town. A highly recommended rental if you have not seen it yet. This movie is a guaranteed winner.

A must for Elvis fans - 27 November 2000
As an Elvis fanatic, this movie is a necessity. Its possible it contains the word "Elvis" more than any other mainstream movie. The impersonators of every nationality, the Flying Elvises at the climax and, as user 'lawndale' pointed out, the soundtrack is one of the best.

Aside from the King, there is still a very funny movie here. Cage was doing small comedies at the time ("Guarding Tess" and "It Could Happen to You" are two of them), and this fits in with those other light entertainments, as far as that goes. He does 'frustrated' comedy pretty well; Ben Stiller would have been in this if it were made today, since he seems to be the new 'victim' in today's comedies. All the comedy is totally dependent on Cage's performance, and he delivers in ways I would not have thought possible. His next trip to Vegas (in "Leaving Las Vegas") should have been as much fun.

a fun and enjoyable romantic comedy -  3 April 2005
This was a really fun movie. I watched it solely because Nicolas Cage, one of my favorite actors was in it, so I thought it couldn't be that bad. And I was right. It was actually better then I thought it would be.

There isn't any way to describe this movie except a lighter, funnier, sappier version of Indecent proposal. While indecent proposal the book, was great, the movie was pretty bad. This however, was a really fun time from beginning to end. Cage and parker make an adorable screen couple and James Caan was absolutely great. This movie hooks you, in the first five minutes, and retains a fun atmosphere throughout. It doesn't hurt that the two main settings for the movie are Las Vegas and Hawaii. The movie will make you want to visit both places. It is also peppered with unforgettable funny characters amidst two great settings, one a non stop party(Vegas) and one stunning peaceful island beauty(Hawai).

What's also great about this movie is it is actually unpredictable in a few places and I don't say that lightly because there are not a lot of romantic comedies that can do that. Give you the warm fuzzies-oh yeah most of them do that no problem, but it's the rare romantic comedy that can leave you guessing.

For me, I didn't know, at first, who parker's Betsy would actually end up with. Cage is at first, presented as a jerk who yells almost non stop through the first part. And Tommy actually appears to be, if a little questionable, genuinely attracted to Parker. And the two have chemistry as well. So I wasn't quite sure which road the movie would choose to take.

That Tommy ultimately becomes much nastier then he was at first presented was, to me, at first a disappointment, and didn't seem to go with what I'd seen so far, but the end made it worth it as this tops many romantic comedies with it's Completely over the top yet somehow appropriate, ending. The sky diving sequence was thrilling, not to mention how fun the Elvis impersonators were. This movie is an easy 7, maybe even a bit higher(7.5) and is a movie I'd completely recommend, it's fun, it's funny, it's pretty, and it's well acted. Makes a great summer's late night watch and should be rated a bit higher on here.

It may be because i'm a Nic Cage worshiper but I just love this movie. - 1 February 2011
It may be because i'm a Nic Cage worshiper but I just love this movie. It's predictable at first but after a while your not entirely sure how it's going to end because both Nic and Caan start to both become the lead character in the movie and your never too sure who Sarah Jessica Parker is going to end up with in the end. Speaking of Sarah Jessica Parker she actually doesn't look bad in this movie, she ain't horsey or nothing'. The best parts of the movie are when Nic is just screaming and acting like a mental case at the strangest things and you can really feel all of the stress that he's going through just to get his girlfriend back. I recommend this movie to anyone who is a Nic Cage fan or if you want to like SJP for once.

We're caught in a trap... -  4 October 1999
"Honeymoon in Vegas" has BY FAR one of the best soundtracks EVER-- the wide array of Elvis cover-songs is simply amazing: Billy Joel's take on "All Shook Up" and Dwight Yoakam's [he's the singer who covered Queen's "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" for the Gap commercial, fyi] rendition of "Suspicious Minds" really stand out among a truly stellar collection. Hearing this music in the background will carry you through most of the less-than-interesting moments of "Vegas."

Parker, Cage, and the soundtrack make "Honeymoon in Vegas," at the very least, a WATCHABLE film with some very enjoyable moments scattered throughout. It's worth seeing once, and the soundtrack is definitely worth picking up from the discount bins.

* My favorite quotes in Honeymoon in Vegas

This movie is stuffed to the brim with great quotes, but here are four that immediately pop into my head and always make me laugh

[Mahi Mahi and Jack drive up to Chief Orman's house, which is a dilapadated old hut.]
Mahi: Chief Orman have pretty big influence around here.
Jack Singer [pissed]: Influence? He lives in a SHACK!

[Mahi Mahi offers to console Jack with some parting advice.]
Mahi: Hey, always remember, E hoopuka i na olelo maikai wale no mai kau waha-aku. It means always have the good words come out of your mouth.
Jack Singer: That just doesn’t help me at all. But I appreciate the thought.

[A panicked Jack is causing a scene at a Hawaiian airport.]
Ticket agent: Please, sir, if you don't get back in line...
Jack Singer [freaking out]: Then, WHAT? I'll be ARRESTED? Put... IN AIRPORT JAIL?!

[Jack is frantically trying to get directions from the operator over a Hawaiian pay phone.]
Jack Singer [freaking out]:  Is It Kapa'a or Kapa'aa?  Kapa'a or Kapa'aa?  IS IT TWO A'S OR THREE?!?

* My favorite scene in Honeymoon in Vegas:

There are a lot of funnier moments in the movie, but the scene where Jack is arguing with the phone operator over the pronounciation of Kapa'a versus Kapa'aa is my personal favorite.  There is no way you can visit Hawaii, and look at the name of a road sign, and not think of that scene.   

"Well, as the King himself said, there aint nothing in this world foolproof, except hookers and Coupe de Villes."

Honeymoon in Vegas at the IMDB

Honeymoon in Vegas at Wikipedia

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