When the trailers for Last Vegas first came out, many people had the same thought: Oh look, they’re made The Hangover for seniors. Thankfully, it’s not. Some of the jokes won’t humour many under the age of 60, but by the end of its fitting and warm-hearted resolution, Last Vegas wins over all ages.
Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Kevin Kline, and Morgan Freeman play four friends in their late sixties who have been friends for 58 years. When the playboy Billy (Douglas) gets engaged, the pacified Archie (Freeman), the restless Sam (Kline), and the grumpy Paddy (De Niro) throw him a bachelor party in Vegas.
Much of the comedy in the first third of Last Vegas comes from the foursome’s ages. There are some good jokes made from the subject, but also some that feebly fall flat. It’s these moments when the movie gets by purely on the charm of the four leads (or five, if you include Mary Steenburgen as a lounge singer who befriends the clique).
Other times, the jokes are just plain stale. Such scenes expose how much the movie starts off by aiming itself squarely at those over retirement age. The movie seems to assume that elderly people wouldn’t have seen The Hangover, Superbad, or the Austin Powers trilogy, so it recycles jokes and scenes with the confidence that they’ll be funny if it’s the first time certain audiences have heard them.
If Last Vegas remained that way the whole time, it would only warrant three or three-and-a-half stars, but something very interesting happens after the first third of the movie. Like a camera that can’t quite seem to find its focus, the first act works in sporadic spurts. Forty minutes in, though, the movie snaps in focus and from that point on, the movie is so sharp that it nearly negates its initial flaws.
Freeman feels more alive onscreen than he has in years and Kline steals every scene he’s in, proving himself just as adept a comedian as he was in A Fish Called Wanda. Douglas and De Niro are both at the top of their games, and when their plots tangle in the final act and their emotional history is ultimately revealed, they grip the screen.
Too much time is wasted in the beginning of Last Vegas on jokes about Lipitor and not knowing who 50 Cent or LMFAO are, but once the movie gets going, it’s pretty irresistible. The four leads are so entertaining together, you want to keep watching them after the movie’s done. If there’s any luck, this won’t be the last Last Vegas.