Jon Turteltaub is one of Hollywood’s best writers and directors – almost everything he’s created, from Cool Runnings and Phenomenon to the National Treasure pictures, is a treat – and his new movie, Last Vegas, offers more proof. He’s taken a script by Dan Fogelman (Crazy, Stupid Love and The Guilt Trip), based on a premise using one of the most overused settings in film, Las Vegas, assembles five Oscar-winning actors and gives us a comedy with something at stake. It could have been a fiasco. It could have been another formula movie. Worse, it could have been turned into The Hangover for geriatrics. Instead, Last Vegas delivers a humorous lesson in making one’s life a legend. It’s perfect.
Mary Steenburgen plays the muse Diana, a nightclub singer who decides to welcome four old men to Las Vegas but before that we meet the men as boys in black and white photo booth flashbacks and a single episode that seals their quartet as a bond with a bottle of whisky. 58 years later, Robert De Niro’s bruised Paddy has been holed up in Brooklyn mourning his late wife Sophie, while holding on to the past and hating every act of kindness. We’ll find out why later and it might have something to do with Michael Douglas’ Billy, who’s been living a rich and successful life in Malibu. It’s Billy who’s about to marry a young woman and decides to round up the old crew in Vegas for a bachelor party. Morgan Freeman’s Archie is eager to escape his overprotective son Ezra (Michael Ealy) and Kevin Kline’s Sam can’t wait to get a weekend pass from his dull Florida marriage.
The conflict lies in the relationship between Billy and Paddy, who clash as they compete. The humor lies in the shenanigans of these geezers living it up in Las Vegas at the aptly chosen Aria as they revel in gambling, drinking and eye candy. Sam’s armed with a condom consensually gifted from his wife as a rationalization and Archie’s got an excuse for his son that he’s on a church retreat while Billy and Paddy lock horns, compete for Diana’s affection and take care of the crew in their encounters with bouncers, troublemakers and wedding plans. Their Aria suite caretaker Lonnie (Romany Malco) gives them a legitimate cover for the spectacle of old-timers wheezing around the pool, casino and thumping dance floors. Look for a cameo by a rapper named 50 Cent as the nod to Hangover‘s Mike Tyson gag.
But Last Vegas is the anti-Hangover, with serious issues such as pursuing good health, happy marriage and letting go of the past coming into play within a politically incorrect celebration of whisky, women and winning that strongly and deftly shows the young ones how it’s properly which is to say rationally done. There’s no one joke that stands out, though Sam and Archie get the best lines, and partying with granddaddies turns out to be as much or more fun than it sounds. Vegas gets its due, both in its tacky glitz, gams and T & A galore and its boulevards of broken dreams. The movie’s theme that you make your own dreams come true – complete with an all-male makeover to remind us that men are human beings, too, and that they ought to give themselves what they want – is neatly wrapped by director Turteltaub in what the men give to one another, telescoped into a weekend in Las Vegas, with Mary Steenburgen’s self-made woman as the icing on the cake. The cast has never been better, especially Freeman, Kline and Steenburgen. Last Vegas leaves you with laughter, smiles and the wisdom that living in the moment means knowing that the future is more important than the past.