Behold the power of casting. With a different lineup, Last Vegas would have been one of the most insufferable attempts at mainstream comedy in recent memory, a lazy pastiche of broad jokes, cross-demographic appeal and often-gutless pandering. Thanks to its stars, though, it’s enjoyable — if unremarkable.
The 400-Word Review: Last Vegas
By Sean Collier
November 4, 2013
Billy (Michael Douglas), Paddy (Robert De Niro), Sam (Kevin Kline) and Archie (Morgan Freeman) raised PG-13 levels of hell on the streets of Flatbush as children; now, they’re old. Sam endures water aerobics in Florida; Archie bickers with an overprotective son in New Jersey. Paddy remains in Brooklyn, mourning the loss of his wife. Only Billy is thriving, a jetsetting executive-something-or-other marrying a woman several generations removed from his own.
When Billy spreads news of his engagement, the band gets back together for a blowout in Vegas; Paddy protests (Billy didn’t show for his wife’s funeral), but makes the journey. What follows is every note of The Hangover except the mystery, recreated for the AARP set.
There’s a story — at least a backstory — but we’re really here to put some septuagenarians through the Sin City ringer. You could write most of the jokes in your sleep (or, say, for a prime-time network sitcom), and since we’re trying to appeal to the whole family, the danger is non-existent and the debauchery decidedly tame.
Last Vegas frequently gets in its own way. In one sequence, the boys find themselves judging a bikini contest for no particular reason, and five minutes of anatomical close-ups and an appearance by DJ/rapper Redfoo (of LMFAO semi-fame) result; the scene is so clearly the result of a memo reading “Something for the teenagers, please,” that I’m surprised the cast even agreed to it. A tedious romantic subplot featuring a witless Mary Steenburgen is another groupthunk mess.
But when the producers and test audiences recede and the very talented performers are left to themselves, the results are often very funny. De Niro hasn’t been this engaged since his Analyze This/Meet the Parents phase began, and Freeman shows his oft-overlooked comedic timing. Kline steals the show; nearly every line he delivers is naturally, delightfully funny. Regardless of his age, someone should stick him in a big-budget summer comedy soon.
On paper, it’s a mess; with these four, it’s fine. Last Vegas won’t stand as a classic, but it’ll do just fine for a multi-generation trip to the cinema.
Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at pittsburghmagazine.com/afterdark