Review: What happens when four old men hit Vegas
November 1, 2013
Friendship Movies start with a scene featuring child actors that resemble young versions of the grown-up stars of the film. "Look, it's a mini Chris Rock!" "Hey, that little girl looks just like Demi Moore!"
Rare is the Friendship Movie that starts with a scene featuring child actors and then says, "58 Years Later."
"Last Vegas" is a movie about old guys and how young people relate to old guys, and how old guys relate to one another after some six decades of friendship — and one major falling-out. It feels a little bit like "The Hangover, Part XXII," and I wouldn't blame you if you felt as if you've seen the movie just by watching the trailer. There's virtually nothing subtle or surprising about the story, and yet one can't help but smile throughout, watching five Academy Award-winning actors breezing their way through an obvious but lovely and funny adventure.
Michael Douglas is the 70ish Billy, and the fact that he still goes by Billy tells you a lot about this guy. A wealthy lifelong bachelor with hair a color not found in nature, Billy impulsively pops the question to his 31-year-old girlfriend — at a funeral, where apparently it has just dawned on Billy he's in real danger of dying alone, or at least in the arms of someone wearing a lot of bling he's just purchased for her.
Archie (Morgan Freeman), recovering from a minor stroke, feels like a prisoner in his grown son's home. Paddy (Robert De Niro), widowed a year earlier, wears a robe all day and spoons cereal in his lonely apartment. And then there's Kevin Kline's Sam, who seems about 20 years too young to be spending his days in a senior community in Florida.
The old gang hasn't reconnected as a full quartet in many a year, but they all agree to go to Vegas for a bachelor party for Billy, mainly because we need contrivances such as this in order to have a movie. The boys haven't even checked into their hotel when they happen upon Mary Steenburgen's Diana, a nightclub singer of a certain age who is smart and beautiful and kind, and apparently has been onstage in that dingy little room for years, just waiting for these guys to show up so two of them can fight over her.
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Everybody gets a predictable storyline. Sam's been given a hall pass from his wife for the weekend. Archie's tired of being coddled after his stroke, and he's going to gamble, drink and dance. Paddy's still fuming at Billy for not showing up at his wife's funeral. And Billy … well, Billy's getting married.
Directed by Jon Turteltaub (the "National Treasure" movies) and written by Dan Fogelman ("Cars"), "Last Vegas" never misses the opportunity to go for the obvious, whether it's old guys surprising the kids with their dance moves, old guys surprising the young babes with their charm, old guys getting into a fight or old guys discovering the miracle of multiple Red Bulls.
It also plays like one long advertisement for the Aria Hotel and Casino Resort. The title of this film could have been, "The Aria Hotel and Casino Resort Presents … Last Vegas!" The product placement is so shameless it's kinda funny.
We also get some pretty sharp one-liners, a funny superstar cameo, a few genuinely touching revelations and a general sunniness that wins out over the hokey subplots and the easy visual gags. Mostly, "Last Vegas" is a chance to see five superb actors enjoying themselves as they cruise through an old-fashioned ensemble piece with no ambitions beyond solid entertainment with a choke-up moment or two.
What happens in "Last Vegas" won't stay with you forever, but you'll walk out with a smile.
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