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REVIEW

Last Vegas

By Philip Martin

This article was published November 1, 2013 at 2:13 a.m.

robert-de-niro-from-left-morgan-freeman-and-kevin-kline-manage-to-deliver-a-few-moments-of-grace-and-laughs-in-last-vegas

Robert De Niro (from left), Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline manage to deliver a few moments of grace and laughs in Last Vegas.

It’s no fun to be a stick-in-the mud movie critic who never likes anything.

I am so not that guy. I like lots of things - baseball and hot fudge sundaes and puppies and far more movies than I should. Case in point, just a few hours before I saw Last Vegas at the Savannah Film Festival, I saw The Spectacular Now. What a great movie. When it played in Little Rock a couple of months back, Piers Marchant reviewed it for our blog blood, dirt & angels (blooddirtandangels.com). The DVD release is set for January. You really ought to see it; it’s pretty wonderful.

Last Vegas, not so much. The temptation is to fall back on the information-free idiom “it is what it is,” for if you’ve seen the trailer for Last Vegas you can guess its (light) weight and probably save yourself 103 minutes or so. But since I stuck it out, let me say that it is your basic high-concept Hollywood comedy, professionally realized without much ambition or any especial love. A few high-profile actors got together, no doubt enjoyed each other’s company for a month or so, received sizable checks and - we hope - put the entire business out of their minds. Last Vegas isn’t a scarring experience, it’s just an exercise in profit-taking that no one, least of all the audience, is likely to find memorable.

That doesn’t mean it is without a few laughs and moments of grace, most of which are supplied by Morgan Freeman’s sly smile and Mary Steenburgen’s stealthy sexiness. In a movie that features yards of PG-13 flesh and a poolside bikini contest emceed by the electronic dance group LMFAO’s Redfoo, Steenburgen emerges as the most desirable lady on the screen, which might be counted as a victory were not the whole enterprise designed for senior wish fulfillment. We might have suspected we were getting a geriatric Hangover - the truth is the tone of the film is much closer to something like Ron Howard’s (much better) Cocoon.

The premise is simple. Four friends from the neighborhood, in this case Brooklyn, who were inseparable in their youth, reunite in Las Vegas for the bachelor party of their one matrimonial holdout, Billy (Michael Douglas), who, staring his mortality in the maw, has decided to marry his “30-ish” girlfriend.

Billy, who holds a vague but high-powered job we assume is show biz-related (he has a Malibu beach house to go with his bleached teeth, orange tan and poufy “hazelnut” hair), is by far the most successful of the “Flatbush Four.” His tendency to pick up checks and throw his clout about chafes at the depressive Paddy (Robert De Niro), who has to be tricked into leaving his walk-up apartment in the old neighborhood by Sam (Kevin Kline) and Archie (Freeman), who seize on the opportunity to escape the humdrum everydayness of their retirement to throw Billy a party wild enough to pay him back for all the times he’s helped them out.

But Paddy resents Billy for reasons that run deeper than his best friend’s compensating need to play the big shot, and as the Vegas adventure unfolds in remarkably uninventive ways, we understand that history is beginning to repeat itself.

To be fair, the movie improves a bit after an opening scene in which children establish the dynamic of the group, and an incredibly tone-deaf bit where Billy - the silver-tongued comedian of the group - interrupts a sour eulogy for “his mentor” to propose to his girlfriend. But soon enough the gang is all together in Vegas, and the pat situations and inevitable old-people gags unspool.

It’s not exactly depressing - unless you remember De Niro when he was a contender for the greatest film actor ever - and it may be mildly entertaining if you’ve good will enough to accept the neutering of genuine talent in service of bland pap. But all I could make out of this Last Vegas was the terrible waste of resources and time. Life is too short to watch a movie like this one, much less make it.

Last Vegas 78 Cast: Michael Douglas, Kevin Kline, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Mary Steenburgen, Romany Malco, Jerry Ferrara, Joanna Gleason Director: Jon Turteltaub Rating: PG-13, for sexual content and language Running time: 105 minutes

MovieStyle, Pages 33 on 11/01/2013

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