It’s hard to believe that there will soon be a generation of moviegoers who will not see the likes of Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman and to some extent, Kevin Kline, as anything but “the old guys in a movie”. While these four may be at the tail end’s of their much lauded careers, their ability to find roles that while be diminished in terms of their scope, still give them enough room to show audiences that they were indeed the best of their time.
Last Vegas, a Jon Turteltaub (known best for 90s fair Cool Runnings, While You Were Sleeping) flick, can easily be labeled or dismissed as a senior citizens version of The Hangover. To some extent, it’s true, the story surrounds Michael Douglas’ everyoung ladies man Billy Ghershon who is finally getting married in his 60s (to someone half his age). His best friends are corralled together for one last hurrah in Vegas. Seems straight forward, yet what Turteltaub and the writers have done is given the film an added texture of personality and humility. It means that while Last Vegas is less brazen than The Hangover, it certainly isn’t anywhere near as provoking or memorable, however, it doesn’t mean it’s not without merit. Quite the opposite in fact. While The Hangover left behind no aspect of shame, Last Vegas‘ message is actually more about rebuilding and solidifying friendships broken by mistrust and miscommunication. Through an opening set in the 50s of Brooklyn, the heart of the film is born; four best friends will spend a lifetime sorting through the ups and downs of life.
When we are reconnected with them 58 years later, there is a rift between Billy Gershon and De Niro’s character Paddy Conners. Much of the friction comes between these two and both play it off really well. They’re like a more sophisticated rendition of Grumpy Old Men, set to the backdrop of the glitz and glam of Las Vegas. Through it all, we get lot of old jokes, lost in a generational gap jokes, and some old fashion “get off my lawn” jokes. Romance, age and time play a big part in the plot’s progression after we’re introduced to the still radiant Mary Steenburgen. And while there are elements that can be described as The Hangover type debauchery, it is far more toned down. In fact, much of the humour comes from the juxtaposition of old (people) and the young (Vegas, in spirit).
Yes, it’s funny, and all four actors play a substantial part in the appeal of Last Vegas. As the conclusion nears, we see that the point of the film isn’t about flying to Vegas to have one last debaucherous weekend reliving one’s youth, but rather rediscovering and perhaps, finally realising what really is important in life. Something that gives the film a true warmth. Fans of Grumpy Old Men will certainly find a kind hearted soul underneath a rough, agitated and cantankerous exterior they enjoyed from Jack Lemmon and Walther Matthau. But perhaps, for a generation of viewers who have no idea who Lemmon and Matthau are, they’ve got De Niro and Douglas. Not bad really.
Last Vegas opens in Australian cinemas February 6th.
Directed by: John Turteltaub
Written by: Dan Fogelman
Cast: Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline, Mary Steenburgen
Released by: CBS Films
Running time: 105 minutes