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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 1 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 44
Star-studded Last Vegas plays a so-so hand
Arts & Entertainment
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Star-studded Last Vegas plays a so-so hand

by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

LAST VEGAS
Opens November 1


Billy (Michael Douglas), Paddy (Robert De Niro), Archie (Morgan Freeman), and Sam (Kevin Kline) have been best friends for over 30 years. They've gone their separate ways, of course, life leading them in differing directions, but they've always kept in touch, maintaining an unbreakable brotherly bond.

Make that close to unbreakable: Billy and Paddy have been in a state of silent feuding since the tragic death of the latter's beloved wife. But when consummate bachelor Billy announces he's going to get married - to a woman half his age, no less - Archie and Sam take it upon themselves to throw him a Las Vegas bachelor party, and they're going to drag Paddy along for the celebration whether he's open to burying the hatchet with his longtime friend or not.

I'm not going to proclaim that Last Vegas is anything magnificent, that it reinvents the wheel or goes that far off the expected path. I cannot say calling it a geriatric The Hangover is altogether off the mark, and while Billy, Paddy, Archie, and Sam are no Wolfpack (thank goodness), it isn't like they're above getting into a bit of trouble while messing about inside the casinos and out on sidewalks of a glossily neon lit Las Vegas. Bygones will be bygones, friendships will be re-forged, and new romances might be kindled, none of it happening in a way that isn't expected or foregone at any point of the quartet's journey.

All the same, this warmhearted, melodramatic comedy of brotherly love is pretty easy to enjoy. While Dan Fogelman's (Crazy, Stupid, Love.; Tangled) script is fairly rudimentary, he somehow still manages to supply his Oscar-winning cadre of actors (not just men - the divine Mary Steenburgen is also along for the ride) with multi-dimensional characters they don't seem slightly embarrassed about inhabiting. On top of that, journeyman director Jon Turteltaub (National Treasure; While You Were Sleeping) captains this ship with relative ease, never overdoing dramatics to the point of nausea or amplifying the humor to a state of absurd annoyance.

VETERANS AT WORK
Combined with the smoothly charming talents of the cast, Last Vegas is incredibly easy to watch, and while there wasn't a single transformative moment to be found in the entire motion picture, that doesn't mean I felt my 105 minutes spent watching it were misspent. If anything, the opportunity to see Freeman and Kline have such a field day riffing on character traits developed when they were younger is a minor hoot, each man doing far more for this movie than it will ever likely do for them. Both have some wonderful, remarkably authentic moments sprinkled with real emotion and honest humor, each finding subtle depths and layers to Archie and Sam that initially aren't apparent.

De Niro and Douglas don't fare quite as well, but that has more to do with the rote nature of Paddy and Billy than it does with either of their performances. The movie calls for them to play on trademarks and quirks filtered through a lens that recalls stuff like Romancing the Stone, Wall Street, Raging Bull, and Goodfellas, but then doesn't seem to particularly care if they do anything more than what is expected. Sure, each man is in good form, and without question they share a nice, unhurried form of chemistry allowing for even the more lackadaisical bits to have more oomph than they otherwise would have had. They just don't have any sort of signature standout scene in the same way both Freeman and Kline do. More, they don't appear to be as equally invested in trying to create one.

It goes without saying much of this makes little to no sense, and the fact that the foursome become Vegas titans in an astonishingly short period of time is insane. But the movie moves efficiently and without pretense, never trying to do any more than it should even if that also means it doesn't make much of an attempt - if any at all - to do anything outside of ordinary.

Last Vegas isn't a great movie - it's not even much of a good one - but it goes down easy and features some nice sequences that made me smile. Enough? Probably not, but in this instant I don't care enough to make any sort of fuss. Make of that what you will.

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