Last Vegas – an early screening review

Last Vegas
Michael Douglas, Robert DeNiro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline
Directed by Jon Turteltaub
CBS Films
October 25, 2013, 105 min 

Quick Hits:  An ambitious undertaking starring 5 Oscar winners, it cannot be dismissed as simply “The Hangover for old folks,” or even Bachelor Party: the Geriatric Edition, regardless of what the trailers might look like.

 

From the Production Company:

Billy (Michael Douglas), Paddy (Robert De Niro), Archie (Morgan Freeman) and Sam (Kevin Kline) have been best friends since childhood. So when Billy, the group’s sworn bachelor, finally proposes to his thirty-something (of course) girlfriend,

the four head to Las Vegas with a plan to stop acting their age and relive their glory days. However, upon arriving, the four quickly realize that the decades have transformed Sin City and tested their friendship in ways they never imagined. The Rat Pack may have once played the Sands and Cirque du Soleil may now rule the Strip, but it’s these four who are taking over Vegas. 

My Review:

 

Well, having seen an early release last night, let me say that this is an enjoyable film, just not for the reasons you might think.  Beginning with an all-too-brief flashback showing how the Flatbush 4 came together in Brooklyn, the film quickly jumps ahead 58 years to the lives of Billy, Paddy, Archie, and Sam. 

After Billy, the perpetual bachelor, unexpectedly proposes to his 31 year-old girl friend, he calls his oldest friends to set up his bachelor party in Las Vegas.  Archie and Sam are forced to contact Paddy and attempt to shanghai him to the gathering without telling him why, because Billy missed the recent funeral of Paddy’s wife, Sophie, who had been the 5th member of the Flatbush 4.

 

Suffice it to say, bad blood and hilarity ensues when the four of them reunite in Vegas.  From Archie taking half of his pension to the blackjack table (and winning, making him a VIP at the Aria, with all the attendant perks), to Sam’s efforts to utilize his wife’s generous “kitchen pass,” the real story here isn’t four old guys partying like fish out of water in Vegas, a city and lifestyle geared for the young. 

The real heart of this movie is the four of them working through the circumstances their individual and collective lives have brought them, and it is in this way that the film really shines.

 

However, if I have one problem with this movie, it is that most of the time while watching it, I wasn’t watching Billy, Paddy, Archie, and Sam; I was watching Michael, Robert, Morgan, and Kevin play characters which they seem to inhabit almost unconsciously. 

Michael Douglas is playing Gordon Gecko lite; a successful businessman with regrets.

 

Morgan Freeman is the wise, somewhat rebellious and playful, father-type. 

DeNiro is playing DeNiro: world weary, surly, yet with an emotional depth that belies his gruff exterior.

 

Kevin Kline, ever relegated to the supporting role, plays the unhappy, paranoid, staunchly loyal friend, and he is again excellent. 

I did mention that this movie has 5 Oscar winners in it: the four leading men, and Mary Steenburgen, who is criminally underutilized in this film, acting as the catalyst for Billy and Paddy’s reconciliation.

 

By far my favorite performance in this film is DeNiro’s if only for the pool-side sit down he has with Douglas near the end of the film in which he explains how stupid Billy is about women. 

All in all, this is a good, solid film that relies on the chemistry between its stars more than anything else.

Watch it and enjoy it, and you young bucks might just learn a thing or two about how to live your lives.

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