Director: Jon Turteltaub
Cast: Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline
Watch Last Vegas online in the UK: Netflix UK / TalkTalk TV / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
The Hangover with old people. That’s Last Vegas in five words. You can almost hear the studio pitch from your living room. Take a bawdy, poor taste comedy, which unexpectedly made a ton of money, add the kind of senior acting stars who also made The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel a ton of money, and you’ve got a hit. The same – but, you know, mature.
To its credit, though, Last Vegas doesn’t shy away from the “mature” part. At least, for some of the time. Robert De Niro and Morgan Freeman play Paddy and Archie, who reunite with old schoolmate Sam (Kline) when Billy (Michael Douglas) decides to throw a bachelor party in Vegas. The age of his bride to be? 32.
“I have a haemorrhoid that old!” mocks Archie. It’s hardly rocket science, but that age gap between our protagonists and their formulaic Vegas narrative yields some surprisingly satisfactory chuckles – and, even more surprisingly, some feelings too.
The dubious moments are when director Jon Turtletaub forgets the gap altogether. Sam is given permission by his bored wife to play away from home, in the hope it revives their marriage. Carrying around a condom, he leers at everyone, a trait that the director jumps upon as an excuse to do the same. Between bikini contests and ogling camera angles, Last Vegas begins to resemble the crass, crude film its poster suggests.
But that’s not taking into account the class of its cast. Freeman brings more to the role of molly-coddled pensioner than his piles – and clearly enjoys himself, even dancing in a club – while Kline manages to swan about in a shiny suit like A Fish Called Wanda was only yesterday.
The real maturity, though, comes from De Niro and Michael Douglas. They’re given a cheesy back-story involving Paddy’s late wife, whom they once fought over. De Niro’s sour-faced loner may be nothing new, but Douglas is fiendishly charismatic; between this and Behind the Candelabra, the actor’s found his mojo once again. Playing the playboy with teeth-glinting ease, his pearly whites are a nice contrast to his weathered face. The introduction of another lady, smoky lounge singer Diana (Mary Steenburgen), sees both Paddy and Billy rivals once again; but, crucially, for someone their own age. Steenburgen flirts and sings with the sparky, spiky realism of Catherine Keener, taking Last Vegas’ second half out of the seedy casinos and into an unexpectedly cute romantic subplot.
Stumbling with their walking sticks from one extreme to the other, Dan Fogleman’s script ends up in a halfway house, a cosy Marigold Hotel of mostly inoffensive, twee sentiment. If it had the balls to go all the way in either direction, Last Vegas might be more of a success, but the ensemble prove to be a safe bet. It may be The Hangover with old people, but the group’s chemistry makes sure the “mature” tag doesn’t just apply to their age. Last Vegas in five words? Better than you might think.
Last Vegas is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.
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