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Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013 12:01 am

Cast not the only thing old in Last Vegas

Kevin Kline, Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas and Morgan Freeman in Last Vegas.


Don’t you just laugh and laugh when you see a senior citizen unable to operate a newfangled gadget like a trunk latch in a car? Or how about when they act hip but are really out of touch with the times, like say when someone might mistake Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson as a member of The Jackson 5? And don’t get me started where jokes about erectile dysfunction are concerned! Why they’re used so sparingly I do not know; whenever I hear one I’m brought to my knees, chuckling uncontrollably.

If humor of this sort is your idea of a good time at the movies, then Jon Turteltaub’s Last Vegas is the movie you’ve been waiting for. Containing jokes and gags nearly as old and creaky as its 60 and 70-something leads, the film is a predictable, desperate slog that’s rarely amusing and often painful to watch. Of course, with a cast that includes former Oscar-winners Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline and Mary Steenburgen, it’s difficult not to have heightened expectations, even when we’re dealing with an obvious fluff piece such as this. Yet Vegas fails to offer anything insightful or fresh on the subject of aging gracefully and the result is akin to watching five brilliant architects tinker about with a bucket of Lincoln Logs.

After an awkward prologue in which we meet the four male characters in their youth, we get to the heart of the matter, which is a reunion of childhood friends because of a joyous occasion. Billy (Douglas), the one member of the quartet to make it big, is going to, at the age of 70, finally get married – to a woman almost half his age. This is welcome news to his pals Archie (Freeman) and Sam (Kline). They are looking for anything to break up their slow, boring march toward death. The only fly in the ointment is that these two must convince the fourth member of the group to accompany them to Las Vegas for a bachelor party and it won’t be an easy task. Mourning the loss of his wife, Paddy (De Niro) has become the poster child for Curmudgeon’s International and holds a grudge against Billy for a past wrong. However, Archie and Sam are nothing if not wily and soon the trio is headed to sin city to hook up with their pal for the mother of all bachelor parties. All seems well, until the quartet meets Diana (Steenburgen), a lounge singer that soon has Paddy thinking about giving love one more chance and Billy wondering if he’s marrying the right woman.

The screenplay by Dan Fogelman is an example of economic writing done wrong. Seemingly serious grievances between the characters are resolved at the snap of the fingers, which I guess makes sense. Any of these guys could keel over at a moment’s notice. The plot points require little exposition. We’ve seen them on numerous occasions. Archie’s been marginalized by his son because he’s had a stroke; Sam’s marriage has lost its spark so he’s looking to sow his old oats; Paddy refuses to give up the memory of his beloved wife and suffers from survivor’s guilt. It’s all old hat and try as they might, the cast simply can’t breath any life into this flat, dull material.

Film buffs will delight in seeing the four veterans on screen together yet rue the fact that it couldn’t be in a better project. Douglas, Freeman and Kline bring their A-game with De Niro looking uncomfortable throughout, especially when these four are judging a bikini contest and he ends up getting a lap dance from a guy who shakes his junk in his face. Workaholic that he is, the actor has yet to learn that instead of taking any old script that comes his way, he might be better off sitting at home, a move that would benefit not only his legacy but his unsuspecting fans and conscientious film critics everywhere.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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