Old Hands Having Fun
If you have seen the commercials or have any inkling about the premise for “Last Vegas,” you might think of it as merely a derivative “Hangover” for the geriatric set. And you would be half right. But it would be a mistake to underestimate what a cast with five Oscar winners is able to bring to a script that has a lot more heart than expected lurking beneath its high-concept surface.
Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Robert DeNiro and Kevin Kline star as four childhood buddies from Flatbush who grew up together in the 50s and now find themselves decades later heading to Vegas for some fun. DeNiro’s character Paddy is still obsessed with the loss of his wife and is reluctant at first to participate, especially given the primary purpose of the trip – the wedding of Billy (Douglas), with whom Paddy has a long-time grudge. That grudge will prove to be the focal point of a sub-plot involving attorney-turned-lounge singer Diana (Mary Steenburgen).
So while the thin, contrived plot of “Last Vegas” dwells on the multitude of elderly jokes anyone could predict, the cast seems to be genuinely having a good time and the sentimental turn is both unexpected and pulled off with grace and conviction. Freeman’s Archie is the calming, insightful sage, and Kevin Kline proves himself the most versatile as the hilariously sensitive Sam. If the original Rat Pack had made “Ocean’s Eleven” late in their collective lives, something similar to “Last Vegas” might have been the result. Yes, booze and babes pepper the storyline, but not to the point of being offensive to most people.
Director Jon Turteltaub (“National Treasure”) and writer Dan Fogelman (“Cars”) aren’t interested in making something edgy or delivering a profound message, but they understand their target audience every bit as well as the folks responsible for “Bad Grandpa.” (The two films earned similar box office numbers and have almost identical audience approval ratings – 72% according to www.rottentomatoes.com).
So, disregard the critics who may want something more challenging. They’re the same people who hated “The Bucket List” and “Wild Hogs” and couldn’t understand why they went on to huge success. Appreciation of those films portends a similar enjoyment of “Last Vegas,” a modest but ultimately rewarding comedy that has a little worldly-wise wisdom to display in between the prostate and Viagra jokes.
Rated “PG-13” for sexual content and language.