Movie Review – Last Vegas
– Summary –
Director : Jon Turteltaub
Year Of Release : 2013
Principal Cast : Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Robert DeNiro, Kevin Kline, Mary Steenbergen, Jerry Ferrara, Romany Malco, Roger Bart, Joanna Gleason, Michael Ealey, Bre Blair.
Approx Running Time : 105 Minutes
Synopsis: Four old friends reunite in Las Vegas for a bachelor party, although an old grudge and some unfinished business
What we think : Last Vegas is what might happen if you take the cast from The Hangover movies and wait until they’re old and wrinkly. The cast keep things ticking along, the story bounces between middling dramatic fare and some nice comedic moments, and the glitz and glamor of Vegas has never seemed so crisp and brightly hued. Last Vegas is thoroughly forgettable comedy with no bite (perhaps it lost its dentures somewhere?) but offers a pleasantly diverting 100+ minutes of watching Douglas, Freeman, Kline and DeNiro spar for the laughs.
What happens in Vegas, should stay in Vegas.
Last Vegas is the kind of movie that just goes to prove you can’t keep old film stars from taking a paycheck from time to time. With almost zero redeeming quality other than simply to elicit the most minor guffaws and wry smiles as a group of seniors embark on a holiday in America’s party capital, Last Vegas is genuinely pop-corn friendly entertainment at its most basic. Led by four extremely likeable stars in Michael Douglas, Robert DeNiro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline, Last Vegas has substantial echoes of those horrible Hangover movies; although here it’s party hard with colostomy bags. The old “senior citizens venture into territory best left to the young folk” routine is material requiring something fresh these days – it’s a cinema trope which has been done to death (and will probably continue to be) – so does Last Vegas bring anything new to the table, or is it – like so many others – a laugh-free zone filled with dubious gambling themes and copious bikini-clad female shots?
In their twilight years, four old friends live fairly unfulfilled lives in various parts of America. Sam (Kevin Kline) lives with his wife Miriam in a relationship which seems to have lost its spark, while Paddy (Robert DeNiro) grumps about in his New York apartment, mourning the death of his wife a year earlier. Archie (Morgan Freeman) lives with his son Ezra (Michael Ealey) and his family in New Jersey after suffering a stroke, while eternal bachelor Billy (Michael Douglas), a successful Miami-based entrepreneur, has just proposed to his much younger girlfriend, Lisa (Bre Blair). Billy and Paddy haven’t spoken since Paddy’s wife’s funeral a year prior, thanks to Billy being a no-show at the service; Sam and Archie plan to get Paddy to Las Vegas for a bachelor show for Billy, which is a way for them all to escape the relative drudgery of their lives for a weekend and have some fun. Arriving in Vegas, old wounds begin to open, as Billy and Paddy find themselves vying for the attention of the same lounge-singer, Diana (Mary Steenbergen), while Sam finds solace in the affections of a much younger woman, Veronica (Weronika Rosati). Archie, meanwhile, spends his time gambling his savings (without losing, mind you); all the while giving Billy grief about the age of his fiancee and the fact that he’s so damn old. As the bachelor party begins to gather steam, all their emotions and old frustrations begin to come to a head, and they soon discover that their one weekend in Vegas will have a profound impact on all their lives.
Films like Last Vegas exist purely to serve as a stepping stone for the leading cast to do something else. Films which are either a junket to some tropical paradise, or luxury location, where story and character are less important than the visual depiction of that location, provide audiences with respite from blockbuster overload and a palette cleanser for more Oscar-heavy dramas. Last Vegas’ undemanding story, simplistic characters and fun-at-all-costs location – Sin City itself – lends itself to being a pleasant diversion from the humdrum of life; watching this film will never be taxing on the old grey matter, nor will you find it overly sexual, thematic or raunchy (unlike the Hangover franchise!), so for a fairly “family friendly” effort at trying to sexy up some old farts in Vegas, you could do a lot worse.
The story, as inconsequential as it is, is lite-weight fare depicting four different elderly gentlemen in a variety of life stages – one, the eternal bachelor, Billy, a kinda Hugh Hefner role if Hugh Hefner wasn’t 140 or the owner of Playboy Mansion, is given the white-tooth glare of Michael Douglas’s eminent performance. Douglas struts about with his Oompa Loompa spray-tan espousing friendship and the desperate loneliness of a man approaching old age having never settled down with the gritted grimace it deserves, and he’s fun to watch (in a creepy, plastic surgery kinda way). Robert DeNiro does grumpy like nobody else, and he has a riot here as the curmudgeonly Paddy, who holds a serious grudge against Billy and isn’t really prepared to let it go. Paddy’s probably the most morally central one of the bunch – Sam is given a Vegas “hall pass” by his wife (Joanna Gleason) to do whatever he wants over the weekend (including sleeping with someone else – she gives him a condom!) as long as he doesn’t tell her, while Archie isn’t worried about skipping out on his overly protective son with the guise of going on a “church trip”. DeNiro seems occasionally bored by this film, but he’s always on-song with his performance. Kevin Kline, bearded and demure as Sam, comes across a little like the younger brother of Rob Reiner, and Kline’s witty banter with Freeman in particular is deliciously wry. Morgan Freeman acquits himself well as Archie, the world-weary guy who’s probably closer to death than all of them, and plays the Vegas weekend for all it’s worth.
The four leads are backed up by a funny cast, including the gorgeous Mary Steenburgen as the wise female oracle leading all of them in the straight and narrow path – Steenbergen belts out her singing numbers with sexy style too, it must be said – as well as bit-roles to Romany Malco as Lonnie, the boy’s host at the Aria Resort, Jerry Ferrara as Todd, and Bre Blair as Billy’s fiancee Lisa, who isn’t an idiot, but obviously too young for him. The film never uses “stupid” humor to earn its chuckles, relying on the charm and wit of the cast to draw mirth where possible, and I was pleasantly surprised considering I expected a while bunch of slapstick-y groaners to come hurling my way. With the exception of a bikini judging contest (featuring an extended cameo by one of the most imbecilic pop-stars of the moment, Redfoo) and watching DeNiro suffering the indignity of having the ‘Foo’s crotch gyrating in his face, Last Vegas gently prods the funny-bone without resorting to messy, bodily fluid jokes that become tiresome rather quickly.
As equally inconsequential as the story and characters, none of whom really get a lot of meat to work with (DeNiro comes off best in this regard, I think), is the direction from National Treasure franchise helmer Jon Turteltaub. Turteltaub’s work here is adequate, neither good nor bad in terms of getting the story across, providing a few laughs, and showing some flesh at times – Last Vegas isn’t overly flashy or derivative of many modern films set in Sin City’s neon-infused avenues, and in actuality feels rather restrained. It’s the kind of directorial stint you don’t notice – so I guess it’s good in that respect. Last Vegas feels so very bland, so very vanilla, so utterly middle-of-the-road, you can see all the plot-twists telegraphed a mile away; watch carefully for the set-up of a painfully awkward Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson gag that gets a slight chuckle, but indicates well early that at some point, the dude himself is going to appear towards the end (which he does, in one of the clumsiest joke payoff’s you’ll see in a long while): the whole film behaves like this, with spot-it-comin’ story arcs and plot “twists” that offer little surprise. Last Vegas is the least surprising film I’ve seen in ages.
Look, for what it offers the viewer and what it sets out to do early, there’s no denying Last Vegas does exactly what it is supposed to. I guess the problem is that we expects a little more for our buck these days. The four main leads are solid (if expected to do so very little), and Mary Steenbergen seems to be having a whale of a time as an older Vegas showgirl, but the story is rote, the scripting lacks punch, the comedy never stretches one’s brain cells, with the outcome never in doubt. In all, Last Vegas is a largely forgettable affair from all involved, the kind of film which I suspect will quickly find its way to the $2 bin at K-mart and disappear without a trace not long after. Expect little, have a nice time. Expect more, and be disappointed.
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