Last Vegas: Funny for All Adults
By Sandra Olmsted
In Last Vegas, director Jon Turteltaub, who is known for adventures like National Treasure and comedies like Cool Runnings, combines the prenuptial adventure of a septuagenarian and his three buddies with fish-out-of-water humor for a fun romp in Vegas.
When wealthy, successful, and almost seventy-year-old Billy (Michael Douglas) delivers a most unromantic, but not undesired, proposal to his thirtyish girlfriend, she happily accepts. At the news of Billy’s impending wedding, his lifelong buddies, Archie (Morgan Freeman) and Sam (Kevin Kline), plan a Vegas bachelor party, but first they’ll have to convince Paddy (Robert De Niro) to come along. Unfortunately, there’s bad blood between Paddy and Billy, which lends a bit of mystery to this comedy.
Although Douglas, Freeman, Kline, and De Niro have crossed paths at various times during their careers, Last Vegas marks the first time that all of them have worked together, which recommends Turteltaub’s film.
Sam heads out from Florida complete with permission from his wife to do whatever in Vegas, as long as he never tells her, and picks up Archie, who is living in New Jersey with his overprotective son and his family after having an apparently very mild “episode.” They head off to Brooklyn to convince Paddy to come to Vegas for a weekend getaway, but it’s a hard sell because Paddy hasn’t taken off his bathrobe or left his apartment since his beloved wife Sophie died a year ago.
Tricked into going, Paddy isn’t happy when the true purpose of the trip and Billy’s presence are revealed and refuses to join in the fun. Then they meet Diana (Mary Steenburgen), a lounge singer close to their ages, and are all taken with her. Paddy, who desperately needs to move on with his life, and Billy, who is having second thoughts, find Diana especially attractive, and since the dispute between Paddy and Billy seems to have something to do with Sophie, their competitive interest in Diana promises more trouble.
Meanwhile, they don’t have hotel rooms due to an internet mistake by Sam, and even Billy’s assistant can’t score them rooms.
Archie hits the Black Jack tables with half of his retirement fund and runs afoul of some snotty young guys. Sam attempts to find the perfect girl with whom to sow some belated wild oats and meets the cast of a Vegas drag show, who aren’t so stereotypical. Then, several hotel officials tail the guys in a threatening manner and keep asking questions about Archie’s experience at the Black Jack table.
Finally, Billy decides he and his friends need to have some fun, flashes some cash, and arranges for the foursome to judge a beauty contest at the pool. Eventually, these adventures and a really great hotel suite lead to a night at an exclusive dance club where the four senior bros get in a fight.
With the help of their personal concierge, Lonnie (Romany Malco), the guys finds some amusing solutions to getting respect instead of trouble from the young punks and get some help throwing the best bachelor party ever. All the while, Paddy pushes Billy to admit he really loves the “child” he plans to marry.
The bottom line, however, is that these four men can’t ever really be the buddies they were as kids until Billy and Paddy settle their differences; and Diana may be just the catalyst to get Billy to confess and Paddy to let go of his grudge. Paddy may learn things he may not wish to know, and when the whole truth comes out, can the “Flatbush Four” survive, or will their sixty years of friendship be lost?
Although dubbed inaccurately by some as the geriatric Hangover, several big differences set Turteltaub’s Last Vegas above the sophomoric Hangover films. The characters remain in control of their actions despite risks, temptations, and drinking, and make conscious choices and embrace their lives rather then run away from them. Some gags may rely on clichés about aging and the elderly, but films about younger people and prenuptial debauchery also rely on their own clichés.
In Last Vegas, the topnotch comic timing by consummate actors Douglas, Freeman, Kline, and De Niro and editor David Rennie’s pacing of the film, make all the gags work and funny, even the cliché gags and the ones revealed in the trailers. While Mark Mothersbaugh’s music design evokes nostalgia for the Vegas of the Rat Pack, David Hennings’ cinematography reveals the gleaming modern Las Vegas, which unfortunately sometimes feels like a very effective tourism commercial.
Writer Dan Fogelman’s script adds depth with themes regarding friendship and living life to the fullest, but primarily Last Vegas is just an enjoyable, funny film worth seeing. Last Vegas, a CBS Films release, is rated PG-13 for sexual content and language and runs 105 minutes. Last Vegas opens in theaters on Friday November 1st!
More of Olmsted’s reviews are available at <www.thecinematicskinny.com>.
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