Last Vegas (2013)
Cast: Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline, Mary Steenburgen, Jerry Ferrara, Romany Malco, Roger Bart, Joanna Gleason, Michael Ealy
Writer: Dan Fogelman
Director: Jon Turteltaub
Viewed: Wednesday 19 February 2014 @ Event Cinemas Myer Centre, Brisbane.
Well colour me surprised. Recently, gathering a group of “big name” stars for a comedy hasn’t always meant great results (I’m talking about you Valentine’s Day & New Year’s Eve). Then there is the fact that De Niro has been in some truly terrible films over the last few years, Freeman spent most of 2013 phoning in his performances, and I can’t remember the last time I saw Douglas or Kline in anything, let alone something good (yes, I know Douglas has Behind the Candelabra, but I haven’t seen it so my statement stands). Understandably, I had low expectations heading in to Last Vegas, and I was pleased beyond belief to have them greatly exceeded.
When Billy (Douglas, The Game) proposes to his less-than-half-his-age girlfriend (Bre Blair, Quarintine 2: Terminal) while delivering a eulogy at a friend’s funeral, his best friends of the last 60 years decide to throw him a bachelor weekend in Vegas. There are some long simmering tensions in the group but Sam (Kline, Wild Wild West) wants to escape his wife (Gleason, Sex and the City) who he is bored with, Archie (Freeman, The Shawshank Redemption) wants to escape his overbearing son (Ealy, Underworld: Awakening), and Paddy (De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook) wants to escape his empty apartment after the death of his wife a year earlier, so they all end up in the city of sin. There they meet lounge singer Diana (Steenburgen, Step Brothers), confront issues from the past and present, and “party like it’s 1959”.
Ok, yes, Last Vegas is as cliché as they come. Everything you think would happen in a “fish out of water” story of a group of 70 year olds partying it up in Vegas certainly does. People laugh at them, they try to get in to clubs, they ogle big breasts, they declare that they must take naps. You’ll also know exactly how the movie is going to end in the first 20 minutes. The thing is, it’s still so much more than that. It’s genuinely funny for one. There was only a small audience in the theatre but everyone was LOLing very often. The comic timing and delivery of the leads is perfect (Morgan Freeman drunk on Red Bull Vodkas comes straight to mind). I actually can’t remember a joke that didn’t work. It’s also extremely moving in a number of places. De Niro doesn’t do vulnerable very often, but he should. Paddy’s anger at Billy and subsequent softening towards him is some of his best work in my recent memory. Billy’s inevitable epiphany towards the end of the movie that he hasn’t been as good a friend as he could and he’s not as young as he used to be also caused a tear to well in my eye. Freeman and Kline get their chance to shine too.
There are a couple of very small negatives. There’s an odd cameo from LMFAOs Redfoo that doesn’t really work (though I would have loved to be a fly on the wall when they explained to De Niro what would be happening to him during this scene). A later, smaller cameo hits a better note. A storyline involving Sam and a cross-dressing Roger Bart (The Stepford Wives) doesn’t really evolve into anything (I think it’s supposed to show Sam that “odd couples” can work, but we don’t know enough about he and his wife for this to really resonate). Finally, Billy and Sam aren’t always the most sympathetic of characters. Both of these guys have women at home but are in Vegas acting like single men. Again though, these are all minor and don’t affect the enjoyment of the movie.
This was clearly a very fun movie to make. It’s obvious throughout the entire viewing. There are great performances all round with a couple of the leads even going some way towards mending past transgressions in my mind. The film’s conclusion is rife with sequel opportunities but that’s something I definitely hope doesn’t happen. It works as it is and needs to stay as a standalone (remember how much you loved The Hangover? Remember how fast it went downhill with the sequels? In fact there have been a lot of comparisons between this and The Hangover but the two are completely different brands of comedy). Comedies are hard to judge because everybody has a different sense of humor but I had a great time watching this. For all these reasons I give Last Vegas 4 Rant and Rave points.
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