The Hangover for geriatrics? Not so fast...
This review is also up at Channel 24
Four old, lifelong friends head off to
Vegas to throw a bachelor party for their perennially single member
who has finally decided to settle down with a woman half his age -
with blowout parties, late-mid-life crises and friendship-straining
conflicts following along in their wake.
What we thought
Last Vegas may seem on the surface to
be another retread of The Hangover, only this time with an older cast
and more Viagra jokes but, pleasingly, it's something quite
different. Las Vegas is featured, of course, and so are a quartet of
old friends and, yup, Viagra jokes but rather than trying to copy the
success of a series that was well past its sell-by date the minute
its first film ended, Last Vegas is an intimate and character-driven
slice of gentle comedy about love, friendship and growing older.
It's also, however, not something that
is going to go down as any sort of serious masterpiece as it is more
pleasantly entertaining than anything even remotely truly special and
even if it isn't afraid to tackle some big themes, it does so with
both a fair amount of predictability and enough caution to make sure
that it never diverts attention from the geniality of its comedy.
It's a film, in other words that is no where near as crass or as dumb
as you may fear but, for what is effectively a movie about
existential angst, it's surprisingly resolute in its mission of never
being more than pleasantly but forgettably enjoyable.
Still, though there is little
remarkable about the film, it deserves full credit for basically
doing exactly what it set out to do and though it may be a slight
pity that it does little to stand out from the crowd in a good way,
at least enough effort was put into the film to ensure that nothing
stands out in a bad way either. Apparently, sometimes keeping your
sights low and your ambitions humble can actually pay off.
It would be easy, of course, to lay
most of the success of the film on the feet of its top-notch veteran
cast but that would be unfair to both screenwriter Dan Fogelman and
director Jon Turtletaub. These sort of star-studded affairs can often
go horribly, horribly wrong when much of the heavy lifting is done by
the reputation of its stars (Oceans 12 anyone?) so credit where
credit's due: Turtletaub did a great job of playing to his actor's
strengths without over-relying on their public personas.
I also assume that I wouldn't be
talking out of turn when I say that the film simply must have been
written with these actors in mind. I would be very surprised if it
wasn't, as each of these roles seem tailor made for each specific
actor. Michael Douglas's character is charming but smarmy (albeit
good hearted), while Robert Deniro's is tough and curmudgeonly
(albeit good hearted) and Morgan Freeman's is wise and breezily
loveable (albeit bad-hearted – but only in the most literal of
senses). Best of all though is Kevin Kline, who pretty much steals
the show as the funniest (albeit, yup you guessed it, still good
hearted) of the lot, whose brilliantly strange mix of goofiness and
sharp intelligence has not graced our screens anywhere near often
enough in recent years.
Along with the boys though, we
certainly shouldn't forget the lovely Mary Steenbergen who easily
holds her own against our four sexagenarian heroes – literally, in
the case of at least one of them. She provides a much needed female
counter-point and further differentiates the film from the overly
male-centric Hangover films. I'm still not sure if Last Vegas would
pass the Bechdel test, but at least its one major female character
has enough of her own personality to be more than just be the
required potential love interest (though she is that as well).
In the end, I suppose it's hardly
surprising that Last Vegas is ultimately pretty mediocre when you
consider the middle of the road careers of both its writer and its
director (though Turtletaub just earned another fifty cool points
from me as I just now noticed that along with stuff like National
Treasure and 3 Ninja Kids, he's the guy who directed the timelessly
awesome Cool Runnings!), but they do at least remind us that
“mediocre” can just as easily mean “entertaining” and
“perfectly OK” as it can “boring” and “basically a bit
It's not necessarily something that
you need to rush out and see, but if you're in the mood for a
perfectly pleasant and entertaining couple of hours at the movies,
you could really do a whole lot worse than Last Vegas.