Last Vegas (2013)

About once every couple of months, we can count on a release that pits together a group of likeable, veteran actors for a romp in which we can see them in a fun, frivolous light to show that growing old doesn’t always mean the end of one’s life.  Last Vegas is 2013’s modest entry, with a suggestive formula seemingly lifted from The Hangover, only with far less debauchery, featuring characters trying but failing to party as hard as they did in their younger years.

Of the four big names attached, Michael Douglas (HaywireYou Me and Dupree) gets the top bill, starring as Billy, a successful Malibu businessman in his late 60s who we see proposing to his 31-year-old arm-candy girlfriend, Lisa (Blair, Quarantine 2).  Mere days before the marriage, Billy invites his three best childhood friends from his Brooklyn days — Florida-retiree-in-a-stale-marriage Sam (Kline, No Strings Attached), stroke-victim-looking-to-live-life-again Archie (Freeman, Now You See Me), and widower-holding-a-grudge Paddy (De Niro, The Family) — up to Las Vegas for a weekend of fun, sun and last-hurrah hedonism before they all settle down to ride out their remaining years.

Last Vegas is directed by Jon Turteltaub (National Treasure2), a director mostly known for his somewhat artless, populist fare that is easy to watch and just as easy to forget.  Working from a script by equally artless, populist writer Dan Fogelman (The Guilt TripCrazy Stupid Love), his film is a collection of well-worn old-guy jokes dressed up in a new suit.  You get what you expect — Viagra references, getting-too-old-for-this commentary, and experienced vets in the love game showing the young studs how to treat the ladies.  With this being a film set in Vegas, you also know what to expect there too — gambling scenes, wild parties, sultry lounge singers, and comical sideshows like celebrity impersonators in drag.

Viewers of these kinds of films know it’s going to adhere to formula, mostly because that’s what it’s all about — watching cherished actors go through the motions we know and have loved from them over the years once again.  It’s high concept but not high art, so if all you’re expecting is a pleasant time and a few yuks, it passes the time well enough, though there’s little in it one would find truly surprising to see.  It rides almost solely on the chemistry of its cast, who are all cast well according to type (Douglas is suave, De Niro sullen, Freeman convivial, and Kline comical), so your mileage will vary based on how well you like this group of actors and enjoy seeing them look like they’re having some fun.

In truth, as a comedy, it’s standard sitcom, and the broadly stereotypical characters are far beneath the talent of the stars, but the story does gain a bit of traction in the more dramatic moments in which these men, nearing the end of their lives, realize that they’re no longer the spring chickens they used to be.  Perhaps if the film could have mined more from this dramatic angle early on, the tone could have been set for a poignant, bittersweet delight.  But Turteltaub and Fogelman are too content to go for the easy laughs and rampant titillation of the ‘Sin Cty’ atmosphere.

If it’s true, what they say, about what happens in Vegas staying in Vegas, Last Vegas lives up to its name, as there’s nothing you’ll take with you once the credits start to roll.

Qwipster’s rating: C

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for sexual content and language (appealed from an initial R rating)
Running Time: 105 min.

Cast: Michael Douglas, Kevin Kline, Morgan Freeman, Robert De Niro, Mary Steenburgen, Jerry Ferrara, Romany Malco, Bre Blair, Roger Bart, Joanna Gleason, Michael Ealy
Small role: 50 Cent
Director: Jon Turteltaub
Screenplay: Dan Fogelman