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Last Vegas
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by Jay Seaver

"These actors should work together again, in something completely unrelated."
2 stars

"Last Vegas" isn't just "Grumpy Old Men" with twice as many title characters, but maybe it should have been. Those movies with Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon may not have been sophisticated, but they knew the stories and jokes they wanted to tell and weren't content to coast on their stars' established chemistry. This one just has hopes that some great actors working together will be fun, and that's only almost enough.

Billy (Michael Douglas), Paddy (Robert De Niro), Archie (Morgan Freeman), Sam (Kevin Kline), and Sophie were best friends growing up in Flatbush, Brooklyn when they were kids; now it's almost sixty years later and they've spread throughout the country - Sam in Florida with Miriam (Joanna Gleason), his wife of forty years; Archie in New Jersey with his worried son (Michael Ealy) after a stroke; Paddy still in Brooklyn, with Sophie gone a year; and Billy in Malibu, sill a bachelor who has recently proposed to his much younger girlfriend Lisa (Bre Blair). This calls for a bachelor party before the Vegas wedding, although the quartet's age-related issues are brought to the fore a bit when they meet the still-intriguing lounge singer Diana (Mary Steenburgen).

That's a fair amount of characters, but not a whole lot for them to do. The main story is with Billy, Paddy, and Diana, but she is just dropped in as an almost magically-convenient plot device, and the whole thing is thin enough that Archie and Sam seem to be present to fill time as much as anything else, but they are not given anything particularly interesting to do. Heck, even when Sam hits on a woman who turns out to be a drag queen, they don't bother to give Roger Bart any actual funny material as that character. Even the inevitable old-guy jokes seem half-hearted, and the screenplay by Dan Fogelman never builds the connections between these long-time friends: Half the time, they're on their own, and even when they're not, there's only rarely a hint of six decades worth of shared history.

There's also no excitement to its version of Vegas, either: It's a few conspicuously product-placed hotels and attractions, sleekly polished but devoid of any personality. Sure, the empty rooms Diana sings to are sort of sad, but they don't seem to actually bother anyone. The way the movie treats women is also kind of unpleasant: Not only do a lot of the female characters not even have names the way the equivalent male ones do, but for all that characters talk about true love toward the end, there's a lot of unironic use of pretty young things as nothing but decoration. It's a double standard that gets uncomfortable if one thinks about it for a second or two, but it doesn't seem to be that way deliberately.

And yet, for as uninspired and bland as the movie can be, a cast like this is going to run into a few laughs or good moments almost on their own. None of the guys are cast far out of their comfort zone, but that's not a bad thing: Michael Douglas brings the sort of charisma that makes Billy's excesses forgivable, and while Robert De Niro has mostly settled into the curmudgeon role, the moments when it's just the two of them playing against each other are textbook examples of two great actors doing what they can to elevate mediocre material. It's a shame this is the first time they've worked together. The same goes for Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline; the latter is maybe no less under-used here than he has been elsewhere in recent years, but he at least gets to remind us that his effervescent wit is still there, while Freeman seems relaxed and enjoying his chance to do something other than add gravitas. Mary Steenburgen certainly holds her own with them; it's not hard at all to see how easily Diana becomes part of the group.

That's why, when a couple of the younger characters fawn over these guys at the end, it's not exactly hard to believe, so long as its taken as admiration for the actors. Douglas, Kline, De Niro, and Freeman certainly give indications of still having it here; it's just a shame that this movie and these characters aren't nearly interesting enough for them to shine rather than just escape unsullied.

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originally posted: 11/04/13 04:05:39
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User Comments

1/13/14 dr.lao A bit heavy on the "old guys rule" cliches, but enjoyable enough 4 stars
11/18/13 Charles Tatum The cast is better than the script 4 stars
11/07/13 Louis Blyskal Great Movie 5 stars
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  01-Nov-2013 (PG-13)
  DVD: 28-Jan-2014

  03-Jan-2014 (12A)

  DVD: 28-Jan-2014

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