A film review by Craig J. Koban November 8, 2013  


2013, PG-13, 1--  mins.


Robert De Niro as Paddy  /  Morgan Freeman as Archie  /  Michael Douglas as Billy  /  Mary Steenburgen as Diana  /  Kevin Kline as Dean  /  Jerry Ferrara as Dean  /  Romany Malco as Lonnie  /  Roger Bart as Maurice  /  Joanna Gleason as Miriam

Directed by Jon Turteltaub / Written by Dan Fogelman

I would have loved to have been a fly-on-the-wall witness to the studio pitch for the awkwardly titled LAST VEGAS.  I’m sure that it most likely went down along the lines of "it will be a cross between THE HANGOVER and GRUMPY OLD MEN and we’ll get four Oscar winning actors in their twilight years to appear!"  On those levels, it’s easy to see why a project like this got the greenlight, and on certain basic levels, it’s a real treat to see a quartet of seasoned and iconic actors share the screen and enjoy their camaraderie together.  For the most part, it’s impossible not to smile through LAST VEGAS. 

Alas, for as credible and appealing as stars Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Robert De Niro, and Kevin Kline are together as a dream team ensemble, there’s nothing about LAST VEGAS that truly lingers with one well after you’ve screened it and have left the theatre.  Sure, it’s a hoot to see the actors engage in pratfalls and verbal sparring matches – most of them at the expense of their approaching nursing home ages – but they all seem to be essentially on autopilot in a collective attempt to secure what must have been a mighty high payday.   I can certainly see the allure of appearing in this film for these men (hey, let’s all hang out in Las Vegas for several weeks and make a movie!), but LAST VEGAS is too soft-pedaled, too relentlessly predictable, and leaves no story cliché unturned in an effort to unveil itself as a safe, pedestrian, and mostly forgettable old geezer comedy.   

The film does have a very nice prologue, though, that opens in the mid-1950’s and introduces us to the “Flatbush Four,” a group of young teens that seem to simply enjoy their innocent times together.  Then the film flashes quickly to the present (with a rather funny title card that states “58 years later”) as we are re-introduced to the once young lads now aging adults.  There’s Billy (Douglas), a well off businessman that proposes to his young thirtysomething girlfriend at – of all improbable places – a funeral.  She agrees, which leaves Billy deciding that they should not only get married in Vegas, but that he should also have a wild bachelor party weekend there with his old Flatbush Four mates.  Gathering together the other three men proves to be a bit tricky, especially when it comes to convincing Paddy (De Niro), who has become estranged from Billy because of a rather thorny indiscretion of his when Paddy’s wife died.  The other two men, Sam (Kline) and Archie (Freeman), are a bit easier to convince, seeing as they both want one last grasp at youthful fun before they kick the bucket.   



For as relentlessly formulaic as LAST VEGAS is, the film does generate easy momentum based on, yes, having Douglas, De Niro, Kline, and Freeman all on screen together generating moments of modest merriment worthy of a few chuckles.  Douglas can play smarmy and rich elitists until the cows come home…mostly because he’s so good at it…and his scenes with De Niro give the film a necessary pulse of interest.  Most of the comedy comes from Kline and Freeman, though, as they both seem keen on making themselves look in on the whole one-joke gag of this film.  Sam – rather impossibly – has been given a condom, a Viagra tablet, and an official okay from his wife to do whatever he chooses to in Vegas, with reliably funny results (at one point, while at a party, an inebriated girl asks him if he has any drugs, to which he deadpans back, “Does Lipitor count?”).  Freeman seems to be arguably having the most fun, especially after he has had his fix on Red Bull vodka shots (“I feel like I’m getting drunk and electrocuted at the same time!") followed by some smooth moves on the dance floor.  Nice. 

Still…for as much delight as I had in seeing these performers spiritedly play off of one another, the underlining material of LAST VEGAS does not really do them any tangible favors.  Perhaps one of the problems is that the whole vibe of the film feels undercranked and too safe for its own good: For a film that’s supposed to be about a debaucherous weekend out in Vegas, it rarely elevates itself above its limp and far too mellow PG-13-ified comedic trappings.  Perhaps the only hint of lewdness in the film comes in the form of a bikini judging contest for the four men, which comes off as more uncomfortable and difficult to watch than euphorically hilarious (some of the actors, most notably De Niro, seem visibly ill at ease during moments like these).  The script itself also offers up no unexpected sucker punches to the gut.  Everything transpires exactly as one thinks it will right from the very beginning, which leaves the film feeling anti-climatic. 

Take, for instance, a character that Mary Steenburgen plays in the film: a sassy and independent minded Vegas lounge singer that both Billy and Paddy develop feelings for over the course of the film.  Despite the fact that Steenburgen is a breath of fresh air in the film that has many wonderful individual moments with her male counterparts, her entire role is written on the page to provide for some artificial tension and crisis in the story, which all comes to a head during the third act where the three have to decide what’s best for all.  I liked Steenburgen to death here, but the screenplay fails at providing any tangible reason as to why she would fall for both Billy and Paddy.  She’s more or less a device by which Paddy will overcome the grief of his wife’s death and by which Billy will come to grips with whether or not he truly loves his bride-to-be that’s half his age. 

When it boils right down to it, if you really enjoy the sight of old men behaving semi-badly in a collective attempt to reclaim their long lost youth, then I’m sure that LAST VEGAS will be right up your alley.  This is about as pre-packaged of a film as a mass marketed product that I’ve seen in a long while, one that specifically caters to the mostly trivial needs of the older audience demographic that wants to see it.  The film is basically easy to digest comfort food, and on those levels I guess it succeeds.  I certainly enjoyed portions of LAST VEGAS, and experiencing the sight of so many esteemed actors that I’ve admired for years in the same film is a hip trip, to be sure.  Regrettably, though, this is a comedy that – much like Kline’s Sam – could have benefited from a Viagra tablet to help spring itself up and away from comedic and narrative lethargy. 

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