November 01, 2013

Last Vegas

starstar

A movie review by James Berardinelli



Last Vegas

COMEDY:

United States, 2013

U.S. Release Date:

2013-11-01

Running Length:

1:43

MPAA Classification:

PG-13 (Profanity, Sexual Content)

Theatrical Aspect Ratio:

2.35:1

Cast:

Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline, Mary Steenburgen

Director:

Jon Turteltaub

Screenplay:

Dan Fogelman

Cinematography:

David Hennings

Music:

Mark Mothersbaugh

U.S. Distributor:

CBS Films

Subtitles:

none


A peek at the resumes of director Jon Turteltaub (The Sorcerer's Apprentice, National Treasure) and writer Dan Fogelman (Cars, Fred Claus) gives an indication that Last Vegas may not be headed for edgy, ground-breaking territory. Despite the presence of four capable veteran actors - Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline - the film never approaches comedic critical mass. The actors perform with multiple safety nets and the closest the film ever comes to taking a risk is having Freeman dance to a cover of Earth Wind & Fire's "September." The movie, which might have sounded good in a pitch meeting, falls considerably short of "a Hangover with four geezers." It has the sensibilities of a late-'80s/early-'90s forgettable big-screen sit com and probably won't find many interested viewers who aren't card-carrying AARP members. (Note to the filmmakers: most AARP members watch movies at home not in theaters.)

I get the feeling it might have been more fun if Turteltaub had thrown away Fogelman's predictable, unfunny, schlocky screenplay and opted instead to take his four actors on a vacation to Las Vegas and simply filmed what happened. To the extent that there's anything worth watching in Last Vegas, it's because of the sterling quartet whose members know how to deliver bad lines like they're Shakespeare and whose charisma can't be dimmed by pedestrian camera angles. Douglas, De Niro, Freeman, and Kline probably agreed to make this movie because they wanted to hang out with each other in Sin City's unreal environs. Stripping away the artifice of two-dimensional characters and a lackluster storyline might have allowed audiences to appreciate them more.

Last Vegas opens with a cute scene set in the mid-1950s that introduces a group of pre-teen boys who call themselves the "Flatbush Four." Flash forward 58 years to the present day, when these kids have grown up and gotten old. They gather together in Las Vegas for the bachelor party of Billy (Douglas), who's getting hitched to a woman less than half his age. (Does she have Daddy issues? Is she a gold digger? The script doesn't know or care.) In attendance are Paddy (De Niro), whose ongoing feud with Billy leads to some uncomfortable moments; Sam (Kline), whose wife has given him a "free pass" while he's in Vegas with the hope it will re-energize their marriage; and Archie (Freeman), who's relishing a chance to escape from the clutches of his son's family, who view him as fragile. The "hijinks" that ensue aren't just tame by Hangover standards, they're tame by Vegas Vacation standards. No tigers, no Elvis impersonators, and (most importantly) no Mike Tyson.

Last Vegas goes exactly where you'd expect it to go, with the narrative progressing with the familiarity of a connect-the-dots approach. There are no surprises (big or small) and the uneven comedy is more likely to provoke occasional chuckles that good old fashioned belly-laughs. Even worse, nearly every slightly amusing moment is available in the trailer, thereby diminishing (if not nullifying) Last Vegas' already feeble humor quotient.

While none of the actors is going to pick up an Oscar nomination for Last Vegas, there's still a degree of entertainment available from watching their interaction. Someone once said they could happily pass an hour listening to Morgan Freeman read from a phone book and, while there may be some truth in that, one could argue names and numbers is more compelling than the dialogue Archie is encumbered with. Mary Steenbugen, meanwhile, is saddled with the unfortunate task of playing the love interest caught between De Niro's widower and Douglas' womanizer. The saddest thing about having a cast of this caliber is that, by giving them material on this level, an opportunity has been wasted. This is direct-to-video material. It's fast food being served by waiters in tuxes and tails.

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