Published Nov 01, 2013Much of Last Vegas's success is predicated upon one's belief that anyone over fifty is a sexless, dimwitted rube incapable of interpreting or appreciating any aspect of modernity that's deemed "trendy" within the lexicon of populist cinema. It's the "rapping grandma" or Betty White approach to comedy, wherein traditionalist thinkers are sent over the edge in hysterics when people in their golden years behave outrageously, swearing, flipping the bird or doing really anything that suggests they're not just a walking corpse waiting to be pushed off into the ocean on an iceberg.
Here, much like banal mainstream fare such as Wild Hogs or Space Cowboys, four very different men embark on a journey together that's uncharacteristic of their demographic. Billy (Michael Douglas), the ersatz leader of the group, is getting married in Vegas to a woman several decades his junior. Though convincing his married friend Sam (Kevin Kline) and his decidedly less serious friend Archie (Morgan Freeman) to attend is easy enough, a prior falling out with depressive widower Paddy (Robert De Niro) proves more difficult, requiring a bit of manipulation and planning, setting up the basic conflict miring this formula comedy in patronizing predictability.
Why Paddy and Billy can't seem to get along is continually hinted at, looming in the background until the running time denotes third act histrionics, climax and resolution involving a lounge singer (Mary Steenburgen) who inadvertently digs up a painful love triangle past that suggests, tenuously, that true friendship is about sacrifice.
But, before everyone starts doling out exceedingly tidy speeches that define their entire life trajectory in one fell swoop, there are endless gags about gambling, mobsters and the wonderful world of scoring poon. Archie, having taken out his life savings for one last hurrah, wins a crapload of money at blackjack and lands the gang a high end suite originally intended for 50 Cent (he even has a cameo where he asks the riotous old guys to turn their music down). This gives Paddy somewhere to mope and somewhere for Sam—who has a hall pass from his wife to bang anyone with a soft spot for grey pubes—to take a drunken girl that's young enough to be his daughter.
In addition to judging a bikini contest and staring at bountiful cleavage in virtually every scene, the jokes stem from their generalized ignorance about the Vegas party scene. They attempt to give a bouncer a ten-dollar tip to get into a trendy club; they're perplexed by the advent of bottle service; and they're endlessly making self-deprecating comments about their own unexplored libidos. It's all overwhelmingly trite, much like the inclusion of Cirque du Soleil performers at every turn to contextualize the geography and provide broad references for viewers easily excited by familiarity.
Similarly contrived are all motivations and decisions. Since Last Vegas is intended to warm the heart while delivering a message about the importance of being honest about aging and being truthful in relationships, each character has only the best of intentions at all times. Even a sidebar villain that awkwardly insults the elderly at any opportunity turns out to be an affable goofball after they all threaten his life and make him their servant, lying to him about being East Coast mob bosses. He, like everyone else, is just a cipher supporting the perpetual reiteration of a single gag about the sheer hilarity of old people living like they're young.
Quite frankly, this forgettable, socially ignorant comedy would be offensive if it weren't so pathetic and desperate. But at least there's some slow motion underwater photography of senior's aquarobics (it's funny because old people and unconventional body types are considered disgusting). (eOne)