Light, funny, and not nearly as dopey as the trailers often imply, "Last Vegas" joins four cinematic titans for a romp earning better than mere popcorn status. Not by leagues, but it’s a good time.
Here we meet Billy, Paddy, Archie, and Sam, bosom buddies from Brooklyn known as the “Flatbush Four” since their knocking around teen years. Through all of life’s times and trials they've been close, and though now separated coast-to-coast, they come together to send confirmed bachelor Billy off in style… with a party weekend in Las Vegas… despite a bitter year-long estrangement between two… and despite the fact that Billy is marrying a woman less than half his age… and proposed to her while conducting a eulogy. Throw in recuperation from a stroke, multiple surgeries, and unresolved bereavement, you have the makings of one long, strange trip. Let the games begin.
Said games, I feared, were to consist largely of ageist jokes about bodily functions and failure thereof, lecherous leering arguing that they’re old not dead thank you, and ultimate resignation that yep, they’re old, and it ain’t for sissies but whaddaya gonna do. >yawn< Please, please tell me that these exceptional talents didn't sell out their genius for the insipid easy paycheck. (I’m still recovering from the Matthew McConaughey drought of the 2000’s…)
Happily, said games were conducted by grown-up guys in full recognition that while their physically strongest days are behind them, that doesn't mean anything more than that. Life continues to play out with as much vitality as one chooses to bring to it, and the best things in it can still be had. And even when they end, as all things do, good things may yet await the open-minded willing.
Sweet. There was vigor without vulgarity, acceptance without acquiescence. These are genuine men, youthful enough to enjoy some mischief without losing their self-respect, improving with age rather than devolving into either grotesque frat boys or grumpy old men. (I do believe we as a culture are becoming more enlightened!)
Of course they do have their lapses, and "Last Vegas" is a lot of fun, including echoes of other films such as the stern but loving "go get your s*it together" mandate of "City Slickers," organized crime, boxing, and a certain affectionate nod to the iconic Mrs. Kevin Kline. Stereotype is kept to a minimum and blown mostly in the trailers (“Do you guys have drugs?” “Does Lipitor count?” hah, yeah, so funny); the remainder ~ including one or two in the trailers that are actually misrepresented ~ are delivered with a wry wit closer to rebellion than decrepitude.
The only fault it sports, not surprisingly, is its occasional pander to the younger crowd. Old fogeys can’t open the drapes because they don’t understand automation and remote control, they're so out of touch they bumble over the names of current pop culture figures, and so on. Its fault wasn't in that the foibles were inaccurate, necessarily, but that they were forced into caricature so as to increase ticket appeal for a younger demographic. Bad move. Understandable and arguably necessary, but bad nonetheless, and the enlightenment of some was too sloppy to make actual sense.
That said, our esteemed cast maintains a bearing that never allows the flaws to splash onto them; I’m reminded of Cher and Stanley Tucci in "Burlesque," who as exceptionally strong actors were the only ones who could speak the lines without sounding like cornballs. As such, our team here was able to navigate the absurdity and prevent it from turning into disrespect.
I won’t get into the particulars of the story (yes, there actually is one, and it’s quite lovely in many ways), except to say that it will, of course, feel more resonant the closer one is to the age of the Flatbush Four and the ones who love them. A fellow screener felt that it smacked of “manufactured sentiment,” and I can see his point, but being a step older than my friend and thus able to see a smidge further down the path, I can start to sense how "Last Vegas" probably rings quite true.
Authentic, amusing, lighthearted, and enlivening, "Last Vegas" doesn't bring a whole lot that’s new, but it brings much that is fresh, fun, entertaining, and modern.
Story: Four septuagenarian friends of six decades head to Vegas for one's bachelor party as he prepares to marry a woman less than half his age.
Directed by: Jon Turteltaub
Running time: 105 minutes
Houston release date: November 1, 2013
Tickets: Check Fandango, IMDb, or your local listings
Screened Oct 28th at the Edwards Grand Palace Theater in Houston TX