Jeers and Groaning in "Last Vegas"

Last Vegas--Dir. Jon Turteltaub (CBS Films)--2.5 stars

Courtesy of CBS Films

Robert De Niro and a scene-stealing Mary Steenburgen star in "Last Vegas."

In theory, “Last Vegas” should work. It has four acting heavyweights in Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Kevin Kline, and Morgan Freeman; the volatile, raunchy locale of Las Vegas; and the priceless opportunity to the mix the two together. Despite the mouth-watering potential of the combination, “Last Vegas” ultimately falls flat, saturated with clichés and expected plot devices. While the film is certainly an amusing viewing, it’s not particularly memorable. The film has charm in spades, mostly due to the likeability of its seasoned actors, but it cannot overcome the simple fact that it is just not that funny.

After Billy (Douglas) gets engaged to his 30-something girlfriend, Lisa (Bre Blair), he invites his lifelong friends for his bachelor party in Las Vegas as a last hurrah. Each member of the aged wolfpack is going through his own crisis: Paddy (De Niro) cannot move on with his life after the death of his wife, Sam (Kline) is unsatisfied in his retirement in Florida, and Archie (Freeman) cannot be independent under the watchful eye of his son, Ezra (Michael Ealy). In Las Vegas, old rivalries open up and tensions come to a head.

The film’s major flaw lies in its staleness and the predictability of its script. Every known witticism concerning the elderly—including the jiggling women attempting water aerobics, Viagra jokes, and continuous mentions of the prostate—is stuffed into the narrative without precision or care. Each storyline plods from point A to B without any viable, lasting roadblocks, and as a result the characters slip too easily into the clichéd party-film framework. The film neither takes advantage of the oddity of a 70-year-old bachelor party nor the eccentricities of the city, instead putting its characters in rote, tired situations such as a bikini contest, sneaking into the hottest club, and attempting to throw the biggest party of the year (or at least the weekend).

While the film follows the shenanigans of the quartet, at the core of the film is a story of a group of men that must accept, embrace, and work with the sobering realities of their old age. With multiple emotional highs and lows, “Last Vegas” never strikes a balance between the sentimentality of its underlying theme and the inherent raunchiness of its premise. The pacing is off, and the consequence is that each character’s emotional climax fails to resonate. After the group happens upon a high-flying penthouse after Archie wins big in the casino, Paddy explodes unprovoked into a vitriolic attack on Billy for a past grievance. The shift from the jovial humor of the previous scene causes tonal whiplash without any logical reason. Screenwriter Dan Fogelman seems to be playing it by the numbers instead of letting scenes develop naturally, using messy, clunky tropes instead of good sense.

The film largely stays afloat due to the delightful chemistry between its stars. Though the material is derivative, the four Oscar winners certainly look like they are having a good time. The camaraderie and loyalty is believable, and it is no surprise that it is in the dramatic scenes, where the actors interact one on one, that the movie finds its stride. In one of the more poignant scenes, Paddy asks Billy whether he is really in love with his fiancée. It’s a moment that encompasses the enormity and impact of a decades-long friendship. Though the men acquit themselves tremendously in their roles, Mary Steenburgen shines as Diana, a tax-return lawyer turned lounge singer. In one of film’s best scenes, Diana is introduced as she coos into the microphone, a woman full of magnetism and charisma, as the group flocks toward her in awe like moths to a flame. There is a classic Hollywood feel to the scene, and it teases the makings of another film with more heart and class.

It is not that “Last Vegas” is terribly bad, but rather that it is simply boring. What is left after the credits roll is an unsettling feel of what could have been. The film does not make use of its cast’s wide array of talents, making the disappointment all the greater. It is an unquestionable pleasure to see Hollywood legends together on the same screen, but there is, unfortunately, not much more to see than that in “Last Vegas.”

—Staff writer Neha Mehrotra can be reached at neham101@gmail.com.

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