Of late we’ve witnessed a resurgence of beloved veterans going back to cinema, with Michael Douglas returning to work after a brush with death, action heroes such as Sly and Arnie reliving past glories with varying success, and Robert De Niro attaching himself to any film that will have him. The idea of throwing four old dogs together and sending them to Sin City seems easy and rather unoriginal, many labelling the project as the ‘OAP Hangover’ but what is truly amazing is that despite the career lengths of the stars, none of them have ever shared the screen together previously. Director John Turteltaub presents Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Robert De Niro and Kevin Kline as the Flatbush Four, a group of childhood pals who reunite for a bachelor party over fifty years past their prime. Have the gang of respected actors pulled their resources for the ‘legendary’ trip the poster tagline suggests, or will they wish they had stayed at home with the pipe and slippers?
Despite the plot following the expected path of booze, gambling and girls, each of the characters is given a sturdy back-story. The individual arcs lead them into the initial meeting at the airport and intertwine to find a sentimental conclusion. Sam (Kline) is in a marriage which has lost its spark, Archie (Freeman) wants to escape the overbearing care of his son after a mild stroke, Billy (Douglas) is the stag refusing to give in to old age, and Paddy (De Niro) is the most reluctant of the clan to go, still in mourning after the passing of his wife. These deeper, yet still typical, aspects of the story at least give the actors something to get their false teeth into amongst the x-rated ice sculptures and wet t-shirt contests.
The ‘getting old’ narrative offers consistent jokes and witty one liners in the first half of the film, and the mock mafia skit they rustle up is a highlight. Once the Scotch sets in midway, events often take a turn towards the ridiculous yet the experienced cast somehow manage to get away with it. Its clear that they’ve had a lot of fun making it and the chemistry between the friends work, and although none of them really stand out alone, they all manage to hold their own. I could have benefited from one or two more scenes with all four characters together because the camaraderie was so entertaining. Perhaps a lengthier section with them sitting around a casino table reminiscing over times gone by could have been nice? Instead the dialogue was kept rather lightweight and the party scenes were a little too heavy, more reminiscent of geriatric Spring Breakers than the aforementioned Hangover. A few frames tread the line of slightly uneasy viewing as the pensioners grow old disgracefully, ogling at the bikini clad youngsters.
‘Last Vegas’ is far from the disaster that many thought it would be, and surprisingly has more beneath the surface than the first glance would give it credit for. A tender observation of men reaching the autumn of their lives, offering up one or two touching moments as well as the cheap laughs. In the hands of lesser talent, the outcome could have been so much different but the all-star cast manage to add just enough class to see it through. A term that gets bandied around which I usually tend to avoid is popcorn movie, but here it feels very relevant, serving as a welcome injection of light relief during the weighty awards season.
See the trailer: