November 20, 2013
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Starring Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline & Mary Steenbergen
Directed by John Turteltaub
PG-13, 105 min.
Advanced-age audiences have become a sizable movie demographic in recent years, one to which Hollywood has (wisely) been paying more and more attention.
Somebody wasn’t paying quite enough attention, however, to “Last Vegas,” which seems like a lazy exercise to cash in on the growing base of “maturing” ticket buyers using a cast of venerable, award-winning actors plugged into a story template clearly lifted from another successful franchise.
A buddy comedy about four 70-ish friends who convene for a bachelor-party weekend as the last single member of their group is (finally) about to tie the knot, it’s an over-the-hill “Hangover” with most of the ribald raunch of that 2009 blockbuster replaced with creaky jokes about achy joints, hemorrhoids and rapper 50 Cent sheepishly complaining to hotel management that our four horsemen of the AARP apocalypse are slammin’ and jammin’ so loudly he can’t sleep.
The movie counts on its all-star pedigree to carry its slender storyline a long way---and that’ll probably be enough for some folks, who’ll simply enjoy the precedent-setting spectacle of seeing Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline sharing the screen as the childhood buddies now grown up and reunited for a geezer-fied fling.
The quip-filled script by Dan Fogleman (whose resume includes “Cars,” “Bolt,” “Tangled,” “Crazy, Stupid Love” and “The Guilt Trip”) sets up the characters quickly: Sam (Kline), who’s had so many joints replaced that his friends jokingly call him “the Bionic Man”; Archie (Freeman), recovering from a stroke but dying a slow death under the suffocating care of his overly attentive son; and grumpy Paddy (De Niro), living under a cloud of gloom after the death of his wife.
All three come to Vegas from their far-flung corners of the country when Billy (Douglas), their slick, high-living, lifelong bachelor bud with a sexy 32-year-old girlfriend, decides to get married and throw himself a Sin City send-off.
As the guys acclimate to the glitz of their new surroundings, director John Turteltaub, who previously steered three “National Treasure” kid-centric adventures, has them run a gauntlet of geriatric jokes. Most of chuckles, alas, feel churned from cheap sitcom stock. Sam, who’s been given a weekend “free pass” (as unlikely as that sounds) from his wife, can’t wait to pop the single Viagra pill in his pocket. Archie tries to maintain his ruse from his son that he’s really on a church retreat. The doorkeeper at the hotel’s after-hours nightclub thinks the group’s paltry $5 tip to skip his long line must be a joke. A young inebriated woman asks them if they have any drugs. “Does Lipitor count?” they want to know.
“This may be the first bachelor party I’ve attended that could be covered by Medicare,” says Diana (Mary Steenbergen, Oscar winner No. 5), a lovely lounge singer who’ll become a major player in the way the weekend unfolds.
Other movies have plumbed the issues of growing older with grace, dignity and a real sense of the humor and humanity that can be found in the walk into the long shadows of the twilight years. The four old lions in “Last Vegas” don’t aspire to anything so profound as they rip, roar, rib each other and “party like it’s 1959.”
You might expect more from an assemblage of actors with a spread of seven golden Academy Award statues among them. Those seem like pretty good odds for a successful, can’t-lose movie, right? Sorry to report that payoff is such a long shot.