'Last Vegas' review: A safe bet with low stakes, equally low payout
This geriatric comedy hybrid of 'The Bucket List' and 'The Hangover' takes no risks and lightly shuffles from scene to scene.
In short: Four elderly, lifelong friends (Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline and Michael Douglas) reunite in Las Vegas for a 'wild' weekend when one of them gets engaged. (watch the trailer)
It's obvious the film's title was brainstormed first, then a 'story' was reverse-engineered to legitimize the corny title.
The one-sheet poster alone - packed with four well-known stars - will likely attract some faction of undiscriminating moviegoers. 'Last Vegas' isn't necessarily a horrible movie - but everything about it is very safe. And in trying to be safe, 'Last Vegas' ends up being a very vanilla comedy rife with plenty of easy/unearned chuckles.
A large percentage of the jokes fall into one of two buckets: 'gee, aren't these guys old?' or 'gee, aren't all these whipper snappers around these old guys NOT old?' Prepare for a wealth of punchlines involving naps, hemorrhoids, Cialis and old men running/shuffling. This might as well be a film about four very confused aliens dropped right onto the Vegas Strip.
In its least subtle moment, one scene takes place in a graveyard for signs of old, defunct Vegas hotels. Dropping these older characters into a mausoleum of Vegas's "good old days," as they recall better days gone by, is heavy-handed.
Although 'Last Vegas' is theoretically about four friends partying in Sin City, the film feels like two different stories. De Niro and Douglas have a mildly dramatic story arch involving a decades old rivalry, while Freeman and Kline star in a decidedly lighter 'old people' comedy. Freeman and Kline spend most of the film partying or trying to get laid, while De Niro and Douglas barely crack a genuine smile as they shuffle about Vegas.
The problem with these two stories one is 'sort of' dramatic and the other is 'sort of' a party flick starring elderly folk. Neither story is a sharp, committed take on its tone.
In addition to stale jokes and lazy story arcs, the greatest sin of 'Last Vegas' is it defuses every single point of conflict. Each of the four main characters deals with some internal or external conflict. But when each main character confronts their conflict, the other character - be it a much younger thug or an overprotective family member - simply rolls over. There's no back and forth - conflicts that last the entire length of the film simply and suddenly evaporate in the most unsatisfying manner.
Even light comedies can present light conflicts that have some degree of dramatic interaction - 'Last Vegas' opts to take the easy way out and chooses to be a movie of little significance.
Final verdict: "Last Vegas" is the a movie grandma will get a kick out of seeing. It's harmless, mild humor is pleasant, but the combination of de-fanged drama, crusty jokes and uneven stories make this is overly safe, conservative comedy with as much bite as a old person sans dentures.