Sunday, August 31, 2014

Last Vegas

Directed by John Turteltaub.
2013. Rated PG-13, 105 minutes.
Robert De Niro
Michael Douglas
Morgan Freeman
Kevin Kline
Mary Steenburgen
Romany Malco
Jerry Ferrara
Michael Ealy
Joanna Gleason
Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson

The Flatbush Four are a quartet of guys who grew up together in Brooklyn and have become life long friends despite having moved away from each other. Now they're all senior citizens and are going to get together for one more big blowout. The occasion is that Billy (Douglas), seventy years young, is getting married to his thirty-two year old girlfriend. His buddies decide a trip to Vegas to throw him a bachelor party is in order. First on board is Sam (Kline). He's been married for years, but is apparently unhappy. At the very least, he's bored. His wife encourages him to go. She even lets him know he can truly be free this weekend because, as we know, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Next is Archie (Freeman). He is on a laundry list of medication and doesn't get much more excitement than hanging out with his infant grandson. Therefore, he's chomping at the bit to feel alive again. The one reluctant party is Paddy (De Niro). He and Billy (Douglas) had a falling out years ago that he's never gotten over. The Sam and Archie manage to talk him into going, but he isn't happy about it one bit. Since we wouldn't have a movie if everything went according to plan, they don't. The Hangover for the AARP crowd ensues.

Early on, the movie has lots of fun establishing characters and exploring their various personal situations. Both Kline and Freeman display wonderful comic timing and deliver all of their punchlines perfectly, both verbal and physical. Both appear to be having a blast with their roles. The tone is then set that these two will carry most of the load in the comedy department. They are assisted in fairly regular intervals by Romany Malco who plays their host while in Vegas. Meanwhile, the emotional heft falls on the shoulders of Michael Douglas and Robert De Niro. Between them, there is much bickering that, in De Niro's case comes from a place of pain making him to lash out at the one who caused it. Mary Steenburgen gives a very nice performance as essentially the link between the two men. As for the other two, Douglas seems to be on cruise control, but De Niro does something interesting. Perhaps it's just because I've recently seen him in Grudge Match, but it was fascinating to see him play this particular part. This character maintains the hatred for someone else that as his part in Grudge Match, but completely changes motivations. In that movie, he was the one who caused the pain. Here he is on the receiving end. Admittedly, he doesn't do anything spectacular with it, but he does make it at least a little bit compelling watching this guy fail to let go of the past.

Like a lot of comedies, Last Vegas loses some steam when it turns to resolving its plot. Things get sappy between our warring buddies. Again, this movie mirrors Grudge Match. The love triangle is cleared up in similar fashion, leaving those of us who've seen both with a been there, done that feeling. The way the subplots play out involving Kline and Freeman are predictable, but play out a little better. In fact, everything that involves Kline and Freeman is a little better than the stuff with Douglas and De Niro. They're given more things to do besides trying to mend a friendship and engage us more. When their stories wrap up, it's easier to roll with whatever it is they're selling because we had a good time watching them. That isn't to say things are bad in regards to Douglas and De Niro, just more of the same stuff we've seen playing out in the same manner as it has in dozens of other films, whether you've seen Grudge Match, or not.

By the end, we have a movie that is actually pretty funny thanks to the effort of all the supporting players that slows down a bit whenever the focus is on the main plot. Thankfully, that isn't as often as it could have been since it wisely affords equal time to our four stars. It knows that it has two amazing performers in Kevin Kline and Morgan Freeman and doesn't waste them. While it certainly falls short of turning the movie over to them, it definitely gives them room to operate. They do so very well. That storyline involving the other two names is adequate, but is certainly the inferior part of the film. Still, the ultimate criteria for a comedy is whether or not it makes me laugh. It did.


  1. Great review :) I thought the same, it started off brilliantly it terms of humour and establishing characters, but it really slowed down at the end. Still, a great comedy!
    - Allie

    1. That's exactly right. I laughed constantly early on, not so much during the last act.

  2. Wow ... this movie has a great cast. It sounds like something I might enjoy if I keep my expectations modest. :-)

    1. That is just about right. Don't go in expecting the greatest movie of all time, you should enjoy it just fine.