Jon Turtletaub’s Last Vegas attempts to set a world record for bad geriatric jokes in under two hours and very well may have achieved its goal. I say that with uncertainty because after a while, with Dan Fogelman’s script hitting the expected retiree topics and then some, it’s tough to keep track of the total.
Going the PG-13 route in order to make Joe Retiree feel edgy without compromising his or her values, Last Vegas focuses on Billy (Michael Douglas), Paddy (Robert De Niro), Archie (Morgan Freeman), and
Sammy Sam (Kevin Kline), four childhood friends from Brooklyn who reunite 58 years later for Billy’s Sin City bachelor party. Other than the groom-to-be and his 32-year-old fiancée Lisa (Bre Blair), to whom he proposes while eulogizing a recently deceased friend, each fellow is in a bit of a funk, the sum of which hits the core tenets of growing old. Paddy has turned hermit in the year following his wife’s death, Archie lives with his son Ezra (Michael Ealy), who treats him like an invalid following a minor stroke, and Sam’s life has lost its zest since he and his wife Miriam (Joanna Gleason) moved to Florida. Following some generous coaxing and trickery to get a reluctant Paddy aboard (not that he wasn’t going to join), each pal sees a specific opportunity in Vegas and is promptly shown that life-changing detail in typical bland crowd-pleasing fashion.
Predictable though it may be, the story has grander notions than mere senior citizen debauchery and cheap, rarely funny jokes about growing old. One particular arc involving lounge singer Diana (Mary Steenburgen) mirrors a complex occurrence from their days as young men, and unlike other star-studded AARP-friendly casts this year, this foursome exhibits some genuine chemistry. The rapport is squandered in the name of the friends’ signature call and response of “prick” and “asshole,” a wealth of Viagra one-liners, and an ill-advised tangent in which a young jerk (Jerry Ferrara) believes they’re mafia heads, but it’s there.
The Hangover this most certainly is not, though giving its Oscar-winning cast license to let loose and be truly daring sounds preferable to yet another soft-boiled take on aging. Instead, Last Vegas is the kind of poison to which the likes of Unfinished Song and Quartet are the antidote, suggesting that only the British know how to respectfully depict their elderly without skimping on the comedy.
Rated PG-13 on appeal for sexual content and language.
Last Vegas is currently playing at the Carolina Cinemas on Hendersonville Rd.