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Review: Last Vegas (2013)

Last Vegas (2013)

Directed by: Jon Turteltaub

Premise: A group of sexagenarian friends (Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, and Kevin Kline) gather in Las Vegas for a bachelor party.

What Works: The core cast of Last Vegas is well chosen for their roles. Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, and Kevin Kline are allowed to make light of their age and each character has distinct, if familiar, story turf. Also appearing in a supporting role is Mary Steenburgen as a Vegas lounge singer. The sagacious lounge singer is a cliché of movies taking place in Las Vegas but Steenburgen does it well, bringing some reality to a movie that does not have much of it. The subplot of her relationship with Douglas and De Niro’s characters gives Last Vegas a narrative shape that helps the film considerably.

What Doesn’t: Last Vegas has been marketed as a geriatric version of The Hangover but it is not that. The movie has plenty of flaws but the biggest problem of Last Vegas is the lack of a coherent filmmaking vision. The movie is split between two poles and it represents the worst compromises of PG-13 filmmaking. Some parts of Last Vegas play like the tales of drunken debauchery that have been so popular in the comedy genre lately such as The Hangover and 21 & Over whereas other parts of Last Vegas plays like family friendly golden years comedies like The Bucket List. The two thematic priorities of this movie never coalesce and the filmmakers’ inability to reconcile their competing themes is frustrating. If they were going to make an imitation of The Hangover, then they should have embraced that path and entertained the audience with gross out gags and drunken scenarios. But if they were going to make an imitation of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, then be should have committed to that genre and entertained viewers looking for a sensitive story about characters in their golden years. Instead, the filmmakers of Last Vegas (and perhaps the studio executives behind the movie) tried to have it both ways and their indecisiveness results in a picture that does not satisfy anyone. The lack of a coherent vision for Last Vegas hurts the film in almost every way but especially in its comedy. The humor is always stilted, as though the filmmakers are holding back in order to preserve the PG-13 rating and the jokes that the film does include are very lame. Nearly all of the best moments of Last Vegas were seen in the trailer, and most of the comedy consists of cliché elderly jokes about medicine, incontinence, and sexual dysfunction. None of this is very inspired and despite the efforts of the main cast the humor of Last Vegas rarely lands. The rest of the comedic potential in Last Vegas is invested frat house humor. Here again the filmmakers do not show any inspiration. In fact, they don’t even get what this kind of movie needs to do. Better drunken debauchery movies like Superbad are about characters who test their limits and learn something about themselves in the process; lesser drinking movies like Old School are about characters who make stupid choices, get into trouble, and then weasel out of it. Last Vegas is a movie about men who do not learn anything profound about themselves nor do they let loose in a tangible way. This contradictory tension in Last Vegas is very apparent in its regard for women. Like a lot of bro-comedies, Last Vegas has its share of misogyny as women exist specifically as eye and arm candy. As Hollywood female objectification goes, Last Vegas is barely notable but in its last act the filmmakers display a dishonesty that makes it worse. Throughout the whole picture the men regard women as trophies and conquests but in the end they suddenly turn on the wisdom and lecture the younger men about treating women with respect. This comes across really disingenuous and it is indicative of the flaws at the heart of the movie.  

Bottom Line: Last Vegas is not a movie that will entertain those looking for a drunken comedy nor will it please audiences anticipating a golden years story. The movie isn’t as ugly as bro-comedies like Project X but it is tasteless because it is so bland.

Episode: #465 (November 10, 2013)