Cast: Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline, Romany Falco, Jerry Ferrara, Roger Bart, and Mary Steenburgen
Written By: Dan Fogelman
Directed By: Jon Turtletaub
Last Vegas isn’t so much a geriatric version of The Hangover as much as it is a senior citizen’s version of Grown Ups. Despite the Vegas setting, a PG-13 rating prevents these ‘grumpy old men’ from getting as wild as ‘the hangover’ boys. In lieu of a plot driven comedy full of debauchery, we get a safe and harmless yarn that your mother might describe as “cute”. There’s a certain charm in watching silver-screen legends Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline banter with one another. However, the casting of these iconic actors is pretty much the only good thing Last Vegas has going for it.
Known as the “Flatbush Four”, Billy (Douglas), Paddy (De Niro), Archie (Freeman) and Sam (Kline) have been best friends since growing up together in Brooklyn. The group’s sworn bachelor, played by Douglas of course, finally decides to tie the knot with his thirty-something girlfriend. To celebrate, the four men throw a bachelor party in Vegas to relive their glory days and recapture their youth. Hijinks ensue. Hilarity, not so much.
One of the messages that the movie attempts to convey is that “age is just a number” and that growing older doesn’t have to mean growing up. It’s a commendable and inspiring message, but it isn’t sold properly. Freeman’s character has recently suffered a stroke, but that’s not going to stop him from strutting his stuff on the dance floor while getting drunk on Red Bull vodkas. That’s a good setup for a joke, only no joke ever comes and that’s all that happens. There’s nothing so inherently funny about a man dancing and drinking, it’s supposed to be funny merely because it’s Morgan Freeman doing it. Relying on an all-star cast to elevate lame material, screenwriter Dan Fogelman doesn’t give these guys much to do. Fogelman penned the witty romantic comedy Crazy, Stupid, Love, but he also wrote the humdrum road trip comedy The Guilt Trip. Last Vegas has more in common with the latter.
If the filmmaker’s really wanted to prove that old men can be just as lively as the young guys, then why fill the movie with tired jokes and recycled story lines? Presumably there aren’t many 13-year-olds amongst the lead actors key demographics, so instead of the family-friendly rating (and this is hardly a family movie), why not go for something edgy and outrageous? Imagine all the comedy writer/directors who would have loved to get their hands on this cast and this premise. It’s criminal that director-for-hire Jon Turtletaub (National Treasure) squandered such an inspired opportunity.
The Oscar winning actors more or less play versions of the onscreen and offscreen personas we’ve come to associate them with. Rocking an orange spray tan that must have been left over after filming the Liberace movie, Douglas plays Billy, a wealthy lothario marrying a woman who he isn’t in love with, but who makes him feel young. De Niro’s Paddy is a curmudgeonly tough guy who’s despondent after losing his wife of nearly fifty years and content with sitting on a sofa chair for the rest of his life. Freeman’s Archie is wise and sweet, but in a role-reversal his son has begun to worry about his aging father and has taken on the role of guardian, often at the expense of treating Archie like a child. Providing the most comic relief is Kline’s Sam, a high-strung man on edge after being given permission by his wife to have a fling in Vegas. Kline’s scenes where he attempts to make good on his green-light for infidelity plays out like a less funny version of The Farrelly Brother’s movie Hall Pass. In one of the few instances where a joke solidly connects, Kline gets in a killer one-liner during a rendezvous with a younger girl he meets in a nightclub and it’s the closest the film comes to approaching something along the lines of edginess. Meanwhile, character conflict comes in the form of Billy and Paddy’s unresolved issues involving Paddy’s late wife, as well as both men vying for the affection of a lounge singer played by Mary Steenburgen. Will fifty years of animosity be resolved by the end of this 100 minute movie that takes place over two days? What do you think?
Meandering between obvious character development and comedic set-pieces that are mostly laugh-free (such as a drab scene where the four men judge a swimsuit competition), this is a movie made up of subplots. It’s sloppily structured, with an introductory first act that lasts way too long while most of the Vegas action consists of the character’s various B-stories, none of which are particularly interesting or funny.
The nicest thing that can be said about Last Vegas is that it’s well-meaning and watchable – hardly a glowing recommendation. The casting of Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline (all appearing onscreen together for the first time) is where all this film’s ambition begins and ends. If there’s any reason to see the movie, it’s to witness these renowned actors yuk it up. Otherwise, Last Vegas belongs in a retirement home.