Old folks are funny. Everybody knows this, right? Especially in movies they are hi-larious. And Las Vegas? Also a place where funny movies tend to take place, like in The Hangover. Hey, The Hangover didn’t suck until it got away from the “sin city”, right? So old folks and Vegas should be like mana from comedy heaven in Last Vegas, but it’s really the combination of Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, and Kevin Kline that the film manages to overcome some glaring shortcomings with the script.
The screen vets play lifelong friends, known in their reckless Brooklyn youth as the Flatbush Four, but now are dealing with the effects of old age. Archie (Freeman) is a military vet who has suffered a stroke, and thus his son (Michael Ealy in a throwaway role) has him on a short leash. Sam (Kline) has retired to Florida where he’s stuck in a boring, passionless marriage. Paddy (De Niro) has fared the worst, having become a shut-in after the death of his wife, a woman he and former best pal Billy (Douglas) were both vying for back in the day. Resentment still brews between them for reasons that are dangled in front our noses like a carrot, but really aren’t that difficult to figure out. Despite the script by Crazy Stupid Love writer Dan Fogelman, this isn’t a film sturdy enough to support long-lasting mysteries.
Billy is the only one of the group who has chosen to remain a swingin’ spring chicken, and after a rather awkward funeral speech he decides to ditch bachelorhood and marry his 30-year-old girlfriend. Sam and Archie, eager for an escape, are totally gung-ho for throwing their millionaire pal a bachelor party in Vegas, but the fuming Paddy has to be tricked into it, and even when he arrives he’s little more than a dark cloud.
Directed with a brisk pace by Jon Turteltaub, the film easily bypasses any threads that (rather ironically) would be too mature for a sophomoric comedy such as this. Instead it’s a constant barrage of old age stereotypes (did you know old people are bad with technology and use Viagra?) delivered in a fairly conventional package. Archie hits the black jack tables and stumbles into some cash, good enough to earn the gang a swanky hotel upgrade and a resentful concierge (Romany Malco). In one of those storylines that could have really gone somewhere with a little effort, Sam’s wife has given him free reign to basically sleep with whoever he wants (armed with Viagra and condoms) in an effort to bring some spark back to his life. Of course what we get is a creakier version of Hall Pass but his attempts to get laid do provide some of the biggest chuckles. It’s Freeman and Kline who carry much of the comedic burden, and the former seems especially jazzed to get drunk, party with models, and down one too many Red Bulls.
It’s Douglas and De Niro who are expected to carry the marginally heavier stuff, which amounts to a resurgence of Billy and Paddy’s old beef. The always-welcome Mary Steenburgen enters the picture as Diana, a sultry lounge singer who seems to have an eye for both guys, rekindling their feud. She’s actually one of the more refreshing aspects of the story and takes it in some interesting directions, mainly because Diana is feisty and completely open about whom she is. She doesn’t stand for Paddy’s gloom ‘n doom, but nor does she totally buy into Billy’s playboy attitude. We come to learn that she hit Vegas to live out her golden years doing what she always dreamed of doing, an experienced lesson that is imparted on the gang in numerous ways without being heavy-handed. But for every instance of nuance there are a half a dozen more where Sam gets hit on by drag queens or De Niro punches out some young jerk (usually the victim is Jerry Ferrara), or the gang pretend to be mobsters.
Last Vegas is basically The Bucket List meets The Hangover, and if that sounds like it would make for a schizophrenic combination then you’re absolutely right. Its sillier aspects far outweigh the endearing ones, and more jokes miss than hit, but the film breezes through enjoyably enough that this is one Vegas experience you’ll be happy to remember.