Most everyone is genuinely surprised when certain people make certain choices in life. If said people are of a high caliber, it doesn’t make much sense when they choose to do something that is already set up for disaster. Regardless of that, they choose to do it anyways and can only hope for the best. Now, picture four Academy Award Winning Actors and legends, coming together for a film about partying and living life in Las Vegas. Also, don’t forget that they’re all much, much older now. It could be interesting, right?
Paddy (Robert De Niro), Billy (Michael Douglas), Archie (Morgan Freeman), and Sam (Kevin Kline) have been best friends for over sixty years. They grew up in the streets of New York and they were as close as friends could be. During their younger years, they ruled the streets and spent every day together…until along came the beautiful Sophie (Olivia Stuck). That’s when the trouble arose. Both Paddy and Billy loved her, and ultimately she chose to live a life with Paddy. The two eventually married and everyone went about their lives, growing up and creating adult lives of their own.
Flash forward decades later and the guys, now in their mid-to-late sixties, have found themselves living the dull lives they wish they never had; all except for Billy, who is now dating the thirty-something Lisa (Bre Blair). After Billy proposes to Lisa, he calls Archie and Sam and tells them that they need to come out to Vegas to celebrate his pending wedding. Sam wants to escape his old folks life in Florida, while Archie wants to break out of his son’s house. Paddy has fallen on the hardest of times, as Sophie recently passed away and heartbroken, Paddy stays holed up in his house. Eventually the guys convince Paddy to come along for a weekend that will ultimately change their lives. Of course, there has to be conflict along the way, as lounge singer Diana (Mary Steenburgen) attracts both Paddy and Billy, rekindling that romantic rivalry once again.
Essentially, Last Vegas is Adam Sandler’s Grown Ups for…well…grown-ups. Make no mistake, Jon Turteltaub‘s film is light years better than say Grown Ups or Grown Ups 2, but that is something of faint praise. As you watch the film unfold and Dan Fogler‘s screenplay becomes completely predictable and obvious, I have to admit, as bad as this may sound, I could not stop thinking why these well-respected actors were involved in this project in the first place. Based on his recent, shall we say, ill-advised recent comedic choices, Robert De Niro seems a logical fit for a movie like this, but Morgan Freeman and Michael Douglas, who just won an Emmy for his amazing work in Behind The Candleabra, generally do not make too many bad judgment calls. Then we turn to Kevin Kline. Where has he been? Why is he here? Why this project?
Perhaps the chance for these four Oscar-winning actors to all work together proved to be a bit too irresistible and I can certainly understand that. The chemistry between the foursome is pure and because of the talent involved here, the acting remains solid throughout. Fogler does offer each character a back story for us to consider and one which influences their character motivations. De Niro really sells the disheveled man who just lost his whole world. Douglas is believable as a male cougar. Freeman is cooped up with his son after a stroke and he wants to experience life again. Kline, delivering the film’s funniest performance, lives in Florida with tons of elderly men and women whose lack of life depresses him. When they come together to party, get drunk, and cut loose, the best friends have lots of fun and at times, Last Vegas is very entertaining to watch.
Comedy is the focal point of Last Vegas but the film reaches for sentimental undertones, as you can imagine. The relationship, or lack thereof, between De Niro and Douglas is essential to the film’s progression. They both loved the same girl and when she died, Douglas opted out of attending the funeral. De Niro gives an emotional performance, one that is touching and at times, moving as he grapples with being alone for the first time ever. Last Vegas comes chock full of life lessons and tries to be a well-thought out comedy/drama, the dramatic beats focusing on why friendship is important. While nice to hear and be reminded of, elements here come off heavy-handed in spite of the good performances from De Niro and the rest of the cast.
As any comedy about older men in Vegas must do apparently, the film pokes fun at intimacy issues, younger women, out-of-control parties, and we even have a cameo by Redfoo of electro-pop dance group LMFAO. Last Vegas really wants you to be laughing, so if you thought the jokes were not funny the first time, we get them again and again. The gang gets roaring drunk, they dance like men from another generation, and they have no concept of how things actually work today. Last Vegas simply gets old; like the men themselves. I mean, do we really need to have Douglas and De Niro falling for the same girl…again?!
Underwhelming, the film is simply telegraphed and easy to figure out. For some, this will be fine, a shut-your-mind-off type of film. Others will be aggravated. The jokes are hit-or-miss and the comedy serves as more situational. I did laugh a few times and enjoyed the performances from these four legendary actors. There is some entertainment to be had but for much of the time you spend with Last Vegas, the film pays off about as often as that slot machine you keep tossing money into – you keep pulling that handle but the alarms and huge payoff never seems to come.
Last Vegas Trailer