Is it possible to recapture the past when too much time has gone by? What happens when nothing goes according to plan? That's part of the premise behind the DVD release of "Last Vegas," which followed four friends looking to recapture the past and make new memories. The story may have been familiar at times, but the cast made it work and actually garnered some huge laughs as a result.
"Last Vegas" followed an aging playboy named Billy (Michael Douglas) who impulsively proposed to his much younger girlfriend Lisa (Bre Blair) at a funeral. He planned to elope with her to Las Vegas and decided to invite his three childhood friends to come along. They decided to plan a bachelor party for Billy, even though they mocked that his bride was much younger than he was. For the most part, his friends were just as eager to go to escape from their everyday lives. Sam (Kevin Kline) who used to enjoy life and spending time with his wife of 40 years, but he was getting depressed over living in a retirement community where everyone seemed to be waiting for something to happen. His supportive wife (Joanna Gleason) decided to offer him a free pass to do anything he wanted during the trip as long as he didn't tell her the details. Feeling stifled by his son Ezra (Michael Ealy), Archie (Morgan Freeman) comes along to dance and have fun; while keeping an eye on his health after a mild stroke. The only one of the group that had to be lured to Vegas was Paddy (Robert De Niro) who was struggling with overcoming the death of his wife and also his dislike for Billy. Paddy was upset that Billy wouldn't attend her funeral, even though they both loved her dearly. During the start of the trip, the gang runs into a beautiful lounge singer named Diana (Mary Steenburgen) who sparked an interest in both Paddy and Billy. It turned out that Billy and Paddy were once both involved with Paddy's late wife before she chose Paddy. As the wedding drew closer, Billy and Paddy started to get at the heart of their problems, while one of them managed to get the girl in the end. Will the wedding take place and will the gang get everything that they wanted to happen during the trip?
In terms of questions, the movie honestly didn't pose very many because the plot has been done before. The movie might draw some comparisons to "The Hangover," which was a mistake because "Last Vegas" ended up being about friendship instead of partying until the regret kicks in. This movie also showed that humor didn't always have to involve going to huge, and sometimes crude extremes, to make viewers laugh uncontrollably. What made the movie memorable was the camraderie between the four main actors, because they truly made viewers believe that they had been friends for a long time. Their rapport was so easygoing and genuine that even some of the movie's minor flaws could have been forgiven. Sure, the movie spent way too much time on focusing on any love triangle, past and present, that involved De Niro's Paddy and Douglas' Billy, but that could be overlooked because the tension helped to prevent the story from being completely lightweight comedy. Unfortunately, the only storyline casualty was Kline's Sam who spent most of the movie stating that he had a condom and a free pass from his wife to have a fling during the trip, but the story didn't really gain any traction until the movie was almost over. The film's supporting cast (Jerry Ferrara and Romany Malco) helped to elevate things and provided some hilarious moments as well. The most memorable scene with Malco and Ferrara involved Malco's character convincing Ferrara's Dean into believing that the guys were part of the mob and they would retaliate for how he treated them in a nightclub. The guys literally convinced Ferrara's Dean that he should watch his step and made viewers laugh in the process.
As breakout performers, Steenburgen, Douglas and De Niro lead the pack as their complicated dynamic made things much more interesting. Steenburgen embodied Diana as a confident woman who was able to do anything that she set her mind to. She was able to hang out with the guys and not look out of place. She also had a decent rapport with both De Niro and Douglas as she shared scenes with them separately. It was also nice to see a mature actress being able to turn just as many heads as the younger ones. The movie might have also been poking fun as the stereotypical storyline of older men always pursuing pretty young girls, but they were thrown for a loop by a confident older woman who was just what they needed. De Niro embodied Paddy with his usual trademark quiet tough guy persona, but he managed to break away from it towards the end of the film when he helped Douglas' Billy realize that he had to make an important decision before it was too late. He also demonstrated his comedic side as he managed to get Douglas back by pushing him into a swimming pool in retaliation for a trick his character pulled earlier in the movie. Douglas, on the other hand, had the challenging task for making Billy more than the smug playboy that he was at the start of the movie, which he managed to do for the most part. He embodied as a man who hid behind his charm, but the character worked better when he was honest with everyone, especially himself. His strongest scene was when he admitted to his friends that he was afraid of getting older and being alone. The scene was genuine and didn't need laughs, until it was necessary. Let's just hope that a potential sequel is in the works, because the movie managed to create a possibility based on its ending. Fingers crossed.
Verdict: Despite some familiar material, the movie was a charming buddy comedy that drew great laughs and somehow maintained the true meaning of friendship amongst all of the fun.
DVD Score: 3 out of 5 stars
Movie Rating: PG-13
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)