Writer-director Andrew Bergman has a rare talent for intelligently conceived farce, and he has plenty of fun with the premise of “Honeymoon in Vegas,” an adult twist on Damon Runyon’s “Little Miss Marker.” Sarah Jessica Parker is the saucy, sympathetic prize in a poker game between her divorce-detective fiance Nicolas Cage and sharkish Vegas gambler James Caan. The Columbia release is a bit rough around the edges but should make merry at the B.O.
N.Y. shamus Cage’s sleazy job has made him cynical about marriage, and he’s tormented by his refusal to promise his mother (Anne Bancroft) on her deathbed that he’d never tie the knot. This background to Cage’s skittishness about commitment is sketched in somewhat heavy-handedly, but “Honeymoon” starts to fly after it arrives in Vegas.
Schoolteacher Parker has coerced Cage into agreeing to marry her, and they take a honeymoon suite at Bally’s Casino Resort during the midst of a convention of Elvis impersonators from around the world, whose presence provides hilarious running gags throughout the movie.
Parker’s shabby emotional treatment by Cage lends her a sympathy that she and filmmaker Bergman deftly maintain while she succumbs to Caan’s oily but masterful wiles.
In an enjoyably manic, self-kidding performance, Caan plays a thug who for a while shows an unexpectedly gentlemanly streak, putting the hapless Cage to shame.
“If I was a medieval knight, I woulda jostled for ya,” Caan tells Parker after winning a weekend with her in his poker game with Cage. Disgusted at first by her desperate fiance’s willingness to let her go, she becomes entranced with the idea of a Hawaiian fling with Caan, who toys with her emotions in captivating fashion.
William A. Fraker’s lensing is cheesy-looking, but the Hawaiian locations are a compensation in this airy light entertainment.
Though the pacing seems haphazard in spots (the pic runs only 95 minutes), the likable characters and Bergman’s knack for sustaining zany situations keep the film bouncing along.
Parker’s natural, unforced charm and honest, strong-willed personality give “Honeymoon in Vegas” a scintillating uncertainty after she begins taking Caan seriously. Bergman brings out a goofy “Everyman” appeal in Cage that never lets him alienate the audience even in the character’s most obnoxious moments.
Cage’s increasingly frantic attempts to win Parker back leave the audience torn between her two lovers, but the resolution is somewhat pat, requiring an unsatisfying turn of character from Caan.
Nevertheless, Bergman’s staging of an aerial jump over Bally’s by a squad of “Flying Elvises” led by toothsome Burton Gilliam sends the audience out laughing. The pic cleverly uses Elvis songs on the soundtrack to comment on the offbeat love triangle.
The director’s penchant for parody also serves the film well in sendups of scenes from “Chinatown” and “Thunderball,” as well as in his sly echoes of Caan’s “The Gambler” and Cage’s “Wild at Heart.” Peter Boyle’s off-the-wall Polynesian hippie character appears to be a wicked takeoff on Marlon Brando, who starred in the last pic Bergman directed, “The Freshman.”