LAST VEGAS Movie Review
Someone, somewhere, in a movie studio no less, decided that what the world – or rather what the moviegoing public – needed and/or wanted was Last Vegas, a geriatric bachelor party comedy starring not one, not two, but five Oscar winners (Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline, Mary Steenburgen) in the dark twilight of their once great acting careers. The idea, the likely product of writer Dan Fogelman pitching a Hangover–Grumpy Old Men mash-up, shouldn’t have made it past the treatment stage (if that) or the screenwriting stage. Either way, Last Vegas should not have made it to actual production. To be fair, halfway decent roles for actors in their sixties (or older) are few and far between, so it’s understandable why five Oscar winners signed on to Last Vegas. Not that there’s any legitimate excuse for their individual and collective decision to participate in Last Vegas, because there isn’t. It also doesn’t excuse anyone who, knowing what they know (or what they should know), still decides to see Last Vegas opening weekend.
Last Vegas opens with a brief scene set in 1959. It introduces the “Flatbush Four,” best friends and the girl that comes between two of the friends. She breaks the heart of one boy and marries another. A flashforward takes moviegoers to the present as Billy (Douglas), an ultra-wealthy, super-tanned, Malibu based attorney, eulogizes his ex-business partner and friend. During the eulogy, Billy inadvertently proposes to his four decades younger girlfriend, Lisa (Bre Blair). She happily consents and within seconds of screen time, they’ve decided a small, simple wedding in Las Vegas is all either needs or wants. Billy’s former childhood friends, however, are in varying states (and stages) of despair and deteriorating health. Paddy (De Niro) has turned into a bitter, unfriendly curmudgeon, presumably the result of losing his wife a year earlier.
Thanks to recent hip and knee replacements, Sam (Kline) is in relatively good physical health, but mentally he’s practically checked out of his decades-old marriage to Miriam (Joanna Gleason). Recovering from a minor stroke has left the fourth member of the “Flatbush Four,” Archie (Freeman) deeply discontented at the prospect of a future sans alcohol and dancing. The constant presence of his over-protective son, Ezra (Michael Ealy), doesn’t help Archie’s mood, but once Sam successfully advocates for a Las Vegas-set bachelor party, Archie perks up, leaving his son and a cabinet full of medications behind. A reluctant Paddy wants no part of Billy’s bachelor party or Billy for that matter, a result of a major, selfishly motivated slight on Billy’s part.
The buffet table is set for all sorts of old men behaving badly, but Last Vegas takes a moderate, middle-of-the-road course, clumsily skipping from one senior-based joke or gag to another, almost always at the expense of one or more of the four leads (who obviously deserved better). We get jokes about Viagra (of course) and Billy’s relationship with a woman young enough to be his granddaughter. Sam’s wife gives him a single condom, one Viagra, and weekend pass to cheat on her – anything, apparently, to help resurrect their moribund relationship. Paddy’s constant crabbiness provides Last Vegas with another run-on joke – to unsurprisingly diminishing effect. Once Archie wins big at a casino, the four friends move into a lavish VIP suite at (product placement alert) the Aria Hotel and Casino. An age-appropriate lounge singer, Diana (Mary Steenburgen), the men meet on their first day in Vegas offers Billy a convenient (not to mention contrived) alternative to marrying Lisa. As an added, if unnecessary, complication, a romantic triangle forms between Billy, Diana, and Paddy.
Then again, practically everything about Last Vegas can be described as underdeveloped, especially female characters. Diana suffers the most from minimal screentime and superficial writing. It takes all of 2-3 minutes before she’s smitten with Billy and (possibly) Paddy. Other female characters are basically relegated to lust objects in skimpy outfits and bikinis. When, inevitably, Sam gets the opportunity to sleep with a much younger woman, Last Vegas takes the path of least resistance. There’s an obvious template to follow and a checklist to complete before Last Vegas predictably resolves the various conflicts among (and between) the four friends and their significant others. There’s little left for moviegoers to do except sit back and let the remaining jokes and gags (each one weaker than the last) wash over them.
Working from a script by Dan Fogelman, the director, Jon Turteltaub (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, National Treasure, Phenomenon, Cool Runnings) seems to have realized that Last Vegas wasn’t going to succeed or fail based on the script (if it did, it’d definitely fail), but on the charms, charisma, and chemistry between the five leads. Early on, he almost succeeds, but charm, charisma, and chemistry can only take you (and us) so far and all three combined aren’t enough to make a 90- or 100-minute comedy watchable, let alone bearable, and that’s exactly the case with Last Vegas, a so-called comedy where “disappointing,” “desperate,” and “depressing” are the first, second, and third words that come to mind seconds into the end credits.