Some people genuinely read Playboy for the articles. I kid you not, there are those out there who sit there and read articles about the right leather shoes to buy, and interviews with Nick Denton (whoever that is). These are the same individuals who walk in to a movie like Last Vegas and walk out disappointed. This movie is a giant ball of entertainment, with the crassness of a traditional hollywood blockbuster and all the subtlety of a Rihanna song. There's no shame in walking out of the cinema at the end of 105 minutes with a huge smile plastered on your face, and if some tweed wearing, beard toting critic buries you under piles of plot holes and thematic insincerity, just tell them you like boobs and move on.
We join the 'Flatbush Four', as they've dubbed themselves, in the throes of life. Each character brings their individual narrative to the table, developed crudely over a 15 minute intro. Archibald Clayton (Morgan Freeman) is a respectable old gent who's recent stroke has diminished his mobility but not his lust for life, symbolised by the way he dotes on his grand-daughter. Billy Gherson (Michael Douglas) is a cradle-snatching silver fox, complete with faux body and Washington Heights tan. He is played as the straight man, which is ironic as his career (apparently, we're never clued in to the actual life story of our crew) seems to revolve around comedy. When he proposes to his 32 year old wife at a funeral, the chain of events is set in play. Then there is Paddy Connors, played by the brilliant Robert De Niro. His story is tinged with sadness, a life now spent confined to his inner city apartment after the death of the absolute love of his life. A loner, it takes some cajoling to get him off the couch, but it wouldn't be a movie without De Niro. Finally, there is Sam Harris, played by Kevin Kline, a traditional empty nester who moved to Florida with his wife upon retirement, and has watched life slip slowly away from him as the years pass by. His wife gives him a valium, a condom, and a free pass for his weekend away, something he is not shy about. This four make up the gang of youths we see in the very start of the film, and their bond is pushed and pulled throughout.
In short, Connors hates Gherson, due to the laters inability to attend Connors' wife's funeral. This tension plays out like a childish school yard dust up, with cheap name calling and 'I'm not talking to you' theatrics. As is the way with movies of this ilk, the not so secret secret is that there's a lot more to their relationship than meets the eye. At first this little game is grating. Connors refuses to go to Vegas if Gherson will be there, but then spends the entire flight complaining about him not being there. Their spats don't cease until the big reveal, yet surprisingly, as they continue, the characters become more endearing. Rather than getting on the nerves, it lends a sense of every man to the film. This is just four blokes, in the twilight of their lives, trying to have a good time. Archibald is the main earth in the piece. He grounds the story and doesn't allow it to take off in to the stratosphere, keeping their activities relatable and enjoyable. His only misstep is when he somehow manages to win $102,500 at blackjack, but it's just such an excitement at the doors now opening for them (private penthouse villa, judging breast competitions and night club access) that you don't even care.
The beauty of a film like this lies in the wistful fantasies of its audience. Whilst some, like The Hangover, seek to find comedy through more aggressive one liners and blatant shock tactics, Last Vegas presents 4 blokes who could easily be your grandfather just living, trying to have as much fun as possible. The one liners, whilst nice, aren't really even necessary. The entertainment lies in the action. When 50 Cent turns up to their private party and is denied entry, you just laugh, not because the granite wall that is his acting face delivers anything funny, but because 4 guys worried about prostate cancer could supercede the might of his star power. Nudity is very limited, and their exploits are hardly world beating. No-one steals any cop cars, or falls asleep anywhere weird, does any illicit drugs or sleeps with anyone.
Veering from the much travelled bachelor party path is a master stroke from the director John Turteltaub (who's name is funny enough as it is). Attracting the star power of Freeman, Douglas, Kline and De Niro looks like one too, yet the characters are so under developed and emotionally narrow that these roles could've been filled by almost anyone. They do lend an overall feel of experience and weathered intelligence however. None of them being traditional comedic actors again adds to the narrative. Their pauses are more authentic, and lines are delivered not with a sense of 'I know you're going to laugh at this cause I said it' but rather 'You're going to laugh at this cause it's funny'. When the eventual 'bombshell' hits with all the surprise of daybreak, De Niro and Douglas treat it with honour and respect, even if their long resume's protested loudly.
A good laugh, a good movie. If you don't enjoy it, I hear Playboy have a feature on Linus Torvalds next month..