Film Review: Last Vegas

Self-consciously sweet, one might say precious, but nevertheless entertaining, 'Last Vegas' couldn’t go wrong with its once-in-a-lifetime cast, although the Flatbush Four might find themselves in Bangkok if box office is boffo.

Here’s a movie that needs no review. Last Vegas doesn’t live up to its tagline—“It’s going to be legendary”—but it delivers the shtick promised in the film’s ubiquitous trailers. “We’re going to party like its 1959,” proclaims sixty-something Sam, one of four childhood friends who reunite for an anti-AARP bachelor party in Sin City. “I have a hemorrhoid that’s almost thirty-two,” Archie tells Billy, the groom, upon learning the age of his fiancée. Paddy, likewise, can’t pass up a ripe riposte. “If you think I'm going to Vegas for that selfish bastard,” he tells Sam, who shows up sporting his duffer’s chapeau, “you're dumber than that hat.” We’re not giving the jokes away, since these zingers have been airing on television for weeks, and anyway, hey, they got a million of ’em. Besides, the concept of Last Vegas is so tight it’s packed into the title, the cast is a cinematic dream team, and the demographics guarantee return on investment. The only downside? Theatres will rue senior discounts for matinees.

Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline, together for the first time—now that’s a tagline—seem to be enjoying themselves camping it up as codgers gone wild. None of them take the project, or themselves, too seriously, as though they decided from the start to play it for laughs, and we don’t mean the punch lines. Their insouciance refreshes the plot-by-numbers, which incorporates every gambit in the aging boomer repertoire—middle-aged transvestites who turn out to be just-guys, gorgeous young women offering themselves to irresistible sexagenarians and, of course, still-got-it greybeards out-testosteroning callow frat boys—but so what? The Flatbush Four, as the quartet call themselves, blithely carry on, no doubt anticipating their points on the distributor’s gross.

Screenwriter Dan Fogelman, who wrote Cars and Cars 2, proves the adage that old age is second childhood, and while his script often patronizes his musketeers (“Boy, these vodka Red Bulls are strange—I feel like I'm getting drunk and electrocuted at the same time!”), he includes some surprise twists and skillfully creates conflict between Billy (Douglas) and Paddy (De Niro) that wraps up the narrative conceit, that friendship, loyalty and kindness transcend time and place. The verities are reinforced: Be faithful to your pals and spouses, act your age but stay young at heart, sing like no one’s listening…well, you get the idea. The last, anyway, applies to Last Vegas’ fifth Beatle, Mary Steenburgen, who plays a retired attorney pursuing a second career as a jazz singer. Steenburgen, like her male co-stars, owns an Oscar, hers for Best Supporting Actress for Melvin and Howard. She doesn’t get top billing in this gig, but she makes the band swing.

Last Vegas begins with the premise that kids shouldn’t be having all the fun, a notion boomers have embraced with a vengeance—subsidized health care ain’t enough—thus underlining with boldface italics the deeper assumption that hedonism is the new normal. The film’s extras are mostly stoned chicks and rude boys who, for the purposes of comic relief, assume the party never ends. “You guys have drugs?” one endearing but inebriated pretty young thing innocently asks our boyish patriarchs. “Lipitor count?” they rejoin. The joke will be on her when her affordable tax bill arrives.