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LAST VEGAS – Review
January 10, 2014
What if Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline were best buddies since childhood and arranged a long-due reunion in their mature age when the sworn bachelor of the group decided to finally tie the knot? You’d have the premise of Last Vegas, a buddy comedy where these four Hollywood veterans and Oscar winners appear together for the first time in the same film. If the material sounds too thin to tickle your palate, despite the big names involved, guess what? You’re absolutely right. Yet what saves the predictable script and dull direction from sinking the ship completely is indeed the presence of said familiar faces and their fun bromantic chemistry.
Navigated mainstream Hollywood screenwriter Dan Fogelman kicks things off with a cute albeit too predictably by-the-book flashback-prologue where we first meet Billy (Douglas), Paddy (De Niro), Archie (Freeman) and Sam (Kline) as kids and BFFs in Vegas, dealing with some bullies and showing off the sacred bond of their friendship getting them out of trouble. We also meet Sophie, the only girl in the group, caught in your typical first-love triangle with Billy and Paddy hence introducing herself as the destabilizing element in these boys’ brotherhood.
Flash-forward to a life later and these four friends are re-introduced one by one as Billy, now a wealthy Malibu lawyer, calls them up to deliver the news of his engagement to a “slightly” younger babe and invite them to his bachelor’s party. Sam is in Florida, retired too early and having trouble keeping the spark in his marriage. Archie lives in New Jersey with his son who’s become overprotective after Archie suffered a stroke and is driving him nuts. Last but not least: Paddy, in Brooklyn, who on the other hand has turned into a recluse misanthrope by his own choice, mourning the loss of his wife. While Sam and Archie couldn’t be happier at the prospect of escaping their dull lives, Paddy needs a lot of convincing to join the party, due to some unresolved rust with Billy.
Alas, the old gang is reunited in Vegas where all the celebrations are taking place but surely this isn’t the same good old Vegas of their childhood and their friendship is under scrutiny once old wounds get re-opened. Drama comes from the fact that Paddy’s deceased wife is Sophie, the girl of the group who chose Paddy over Billy back in the day (although there’s more to the story than that). But the most recent bad blood is due to Billy not making it over to New York for Sophie’s funeral, blaming work. Naturally, there must be a catalyst that ignites the same conflict all over again and that’s Diana (Mary Steenburgen), a bar singer the guys meet in a casino who easily becomes the object of Paddy and Billy’s attention. While getting involved in predictable bachelor party shenanigans Vegas-style, these four friends must realize what they want from the rest of their lives and how far they will go for their friends.
Last Vegas is not the geriatric version of The Hangover and thankfully so! When it hints at gags that could be remotely reminiscent of the illustrious over-the-top comedy, it falls flat. And sadly, despite being overall enjoyable, the humor stalls pretty fast because how much can you capitalize on old age related jokes? Director John Turteltaub, an expert at mainstream Hollywood family-friendly fare like Cool Runnings, Phenomenon, The Kid and the National Treasure series, is merely a presence for hire. If screenwriter Dan Fogelman had conjured up something less predictable at the core of the story, probably the comedy would’ve profited from it. He surely has proved great at mixing good laughs with heartfelt moments with Crazy Stupid Love where he definitely won us over with the element of surprise. This time around it all feels too familiarly cookie-cutter. That said, if all you need in order to be entertained is a cheap ride with some great passengers on board, then you might still find enough enjoyment and consider Last Vegas worth the trip.
Last Vegas is out in UK cinemas.
Francesco Cerniglia – Film Editor