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LAST VEGAS (2013) review

November 1, 2013

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written by: Dan Fogelman

produced by: Laurence Mark, Nathan Kahane, Any Baer & Matt Leonetti

directed by: Jon Turteltaub

rating: PG-13 (on appeal for sexual content and language) 

runtime: 105 min.

U.S. release date: November 1, 2013

 

Michael Douglas, Robert DeNiro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline are on the cover of the October/November issue of the AARP magazine. If you don’t what that means, let me spell it out for you – it’s known as the magazine for “the old folks”. It’s not a shock to see them on the cover, but it reminds me of my own age as well as theirs. Of course, I knew why the four veteran actors were featured on the cover, to promote “Last Vegas”, their first film together, which has been labeled “The Hangover” for old folks, since it was announced. Unlike those three raunchy movies, this one actually has a few things to say, about how we view aging, male friendships and accepting who you are no matter how over the hill you are – and it goes down easy with your pills.

It’s been 60 years since Bobby (Michael Douglas), Paddy (Robert DeNiro), Archie (Morgan Freeman) and Sam (Kevin Kline) were the boys known as the Flatbush Four. The quartet was inseparable back in the day on the streets of Brooklyn. No one messed with them and they all had the other guy’s back. Much has changed in the decades that have past and although most of them have kept in touch – save for the cantankerous Paddy – their indelible friendships remain intact, yet their conversations are more about what pills their on and their latest surgery.

 

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When lifelong bachelor Bobby announces that he’s getting married in Vegas to a young hottie (“she’s almost 32!”), stroke survivor Archie and recent knee recipient Sam know they must maintain tradition and reunite everyone for a bachelor party. They let a flattered Bobby know they intend to party in Vegas, but the tough part is getting Paddy to join them due to some legitimate bad blood between Bobby and Paddy. After some cajoling and convincing deception, the two manage to get their reluctant widowed friend on a plane to a supposed raucous and decadent weekend with the hopes of reclaiming their glory days.

Upon arriving in Vegas, Archie cleans house at the Aria casino resort, earning them a lush penthouse suite (that was promised to rapper 50 Cent, who, of course makes a pitiful cameo) and the services of Lonny (Romany Malco), their assigned personal concierge. But that stroke of luck still doesn’t sweeten the sour taste Paddy still has toward the spray-tanned Bobby. As they attempt to get along and reconnect, the guys become enamored by Diana (Mary Steenburgen) a witty jazz singer at Binion’s, who winds up the object of affection for both Bobby and Paddy, which adds even more stress to their contentious friendship.

As Bobby’s wedding looms, an outrageous party is thrown together (a little too miraculously, if you ask me) where Archie dances a jig and Sam uses his allotted shore leave to possibly get a freebie in, but things come to a head when both Bobby and Paddy must face some harsh truths.

I’ll admit, when I heard about the premise of “Last Vegas” and the actors involved, I did an eye roll and kind of dismissed this movie. I had hope that screenwriter Dan Fogelman would come up with as much originality and authentic characterization that he struck with “Crazy Stupid Love”, but that’s not the case here. You’ll get a pretty good idea of the kind of movie you’re in store for when you see the trailer. No surprises can be found. Not that director Jon Turtletaub isn’t capable of a solid comedy (see “While You Were Sleeping” and “Cool Runnings” as examples), but he’s spent the good part of the last decade with Nicolas Cage (the “National Treasure” movies and “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”), so maybe that’s hindered him from provided something different or new with these veteran actors.

 

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That’s not to say that it isn’t enjoyable to see these actors maneuver their way through Fogelman’s predictable script. It’s impressive to see how each of them make the most of stereotypical characters they’re given. Each role seems to be catered to the characters we usually see these four stars portray.

Douglas is fitting as the arrogant rich playboy (although it’s unclear how he became so well-off) and it’s a crack-up to see the other guys knock him down a few notches, calling him “Hazelnut” (on account of the fake tan over his leathery skin) and making fun of him for rockin’ the cradle. DeNiro isn’t playing anyone too far removed from the prickly senior we’ve seen him play in comedies for the past decade now. Freeman as a stubborn old goat isn’t a surprise and Kline as a wily horndog (who provides most of the comic relief) plays to our expectations. Those aren’t necessarily complaints though, since it is indeed fun to watch these guys play off each other. It’s morseo a wearisome observation – a longing for material as worthy as the best these actors have proven they can deliver.

But considering the general conceit of the movie, that’s not going to happen here. The old age jokes are expected and expectedly overdone. That’s just how it is with Hollywood movies featuring actors over 60. As if we have to be reminded of their age. Only Steenburgen comes across like her age isn’t an issue, which winds up making her the only character at ease with who they are and where they’re at in life. In other words, she’s got a lot to offer these men, especially the childish pair (Douglas & DeNiro) of the bunch.

Out of the four of them, I found the camaraderie between Freeman and Kline to be my favorite. Maybe because Douglas and DeNiro were playing overly familiar characters, or it could be seeing a relaxed and sly Freeman working off a genuinely funny Kline (who’s always had impeccable comic timing), turns out being the most refreshing element of the movie. That said, I could’ve done with less scenes with Roger Bart as a transvestite 80s Madonna (talk about scar tissue!).

Check out the posters for this movie. As much as Hollywood is providing a movie about and starring seniors, their marketing is suspect. The actors don’t really look that old and certainly don’t look as they do in the movie. All of Kline’s white hair is darkened – in fact, notice how the whole poster is darkened as to barely show any white.  Just an observation about how Hollywood doesn’t know what to do with themselves.

I may shake my head at how much I laughed with (not at) “Last Vegas”. I can’t say I’d respond the same way on a second viewing, but then again my bet is the next time I come across this is when it’s on TNT or AMC. Be that as it may, “Last Vegas” meets the needs of a certain demographic perfectly. Just as children flock toward the latest animated feature playing at the cineplex, here’s a movie that caters to the Viagra and Geritol crowd. Nothing wrong with that and nothing wrong with showcasing five Oscar winners coasting through light and breezy fare.

 

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RATING: **1/2

 

 

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One Comment leave one →
  1. November 1, 2013 6:07 pm

    I saw Last Vegas and really enjoyed it!

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