Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline, Mary Steenburgen, Jerry Ferrera, Romany Malco, Roger Bart, Joanna Gleason, Michael Ealy, Bre Blair
PG-13 on appeal for sexual content and language
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There’s something dreadfully wrong when you can take five Oscar winning actors and put them in a film that is as faulty as Last Vegas.
A quartet of childhood friends reunite in Las Vegas to celebrate the impending nuptials of ringleader Billy (Michael Douglas). When Paddy (Robert De Niro), Archie (Morgan Freeman) and Sam (Kevin Kline) descend on Vegas, it’s the intense rivalry between Billy and Paddy that heats up as both find a potential new soulmate in Vegas loungesinger Diana (Mary Steenburgen).
Frequently referenced as the geriatric The Hangover, the studio played up that angle highlighting the character’s frustration with not being as young as they used to be. That dynamic is explored in depth in the trailer leaving very little in the finished film to be entertained by. Douglas, De Niro, Freeman and Kline don’t try very hard convincing the audience not that they are their characters. It’s as if they are merely working for a paycheck these days. Douglas’ ill health during filming is obvious in its frequent troubles with slurred speech while Freeman gives his best impersonation of himself that he can give. Kline does seem to work hard at presenting a character, but De Niro is still on his shoulder-shrugging late-career comedy.
Steenburgen comes off best of these legends, belting out a glorious tune while showing the gentlemen how to serve up a dollop of acting even when given the most bland, unexciting material. Younger actors Jerry Ferrera, Romany Malco, Michael Ealy and, especially, Roger Bart put some effort into their performances. However, apart from Bart, none of them have particularly fleshed-out personalities they can convey. Bart portrays the drag queen Kline’s Sam tries to pick up in a bar without his glasses on. Those moments are a slice-of-life for Vegas, but seem like a different film trying to barge into this one.
Jon Turtletaub is an uncomplicated director. His films have never been great, but when given a dynamic, compelling script, such as National Treasure, his performance behind the camera dramatically improves. Exacerbating his weakness as a filmmaker is the not-funny-enough script by Dan Fogelman. Fogleman start his career as a staff writer at Disney, contributing to Oscar-nominated films Cars, Bolt and Tangled. Those films relied on a stable of writers to transform the narrative into something entertaining. When Fogelman steps out on his own, though, the results are far less inspired.
Had these actors gotten a better screenplay to put together, I have no doubt this would have been a much better film. These actors, especially Kline who’s worked a great deal in comedy over the years, could have given us something a lot more memorable. As it stands, Last Vegas won’t be the first film you run to when looking for something genuinely funny to pop in the DVD player.
March 20, 2014