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Review: What happens in 'Last Vegas' has happened before

Familiarity breeds contentment as a likable, older cast provides few new wrinkles on the Vegas bachelor party scenario.

October 31, 2013|By Michael Phillips
  • Kevin Kline, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Michael Douglas in familiar comedic territory.
Kevin Kline, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Michael Douglas in familiar… (Chuck Zlotnick / CBS Films )

A genial "Hangover" for the AARP set, "Last Vegas" is roughly what you'd expect, or fear, but a little better.

The four stars of the thing, born between 1937 and 1947, are Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline. The set-up: Lifelong Flatbush-born pals reunite for the bachelor party of the Douglas character, a Malibu slicko marrying a much younger woman. Old grudges reignite; new hijinks (bikini-contest judging, fistfights with twerps one-third their age) ensue; a tax attorney turned Vegas lounge singer (?), played by Mary Steenburgen, excites the interest of the Douglas character, as well as the grieving widower portrayed by De Niro.

Why do we go to movies like "Last Vegas"? For the thrill of fresh forms being discovered before our eyes? For the shock of the new? For a dozen good laughs? No. We go because we know what it will be like in advance. We know, and like, the people on the screen. We understand the premise of the story. And if we settle for half a dozen good laughs, we'll come out reasonably entertained.

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The screenwriter is Dan Fogelman, who penned "The Guilt Trip" and "Crazy, Stupid, Love." Directed by Jon Turteltaub, the movie serves Red Bull and vodkas to its tentative swingers, which leads to a pretty funny joke delivered by Freeman: "I feel like I'm getting drunk and electrocuted at the same time." Fogelman deserves credit for writing a reasonably dimensional female lead, the wisecracking Steenburgen part, whose interactions with these guys you may not believe for an instant.

But belief isn't the point of a commodity such as "Last Vegas." Neither is suspension of disbelief. The point is seeing what a first-rate ensemble can do with second-rate material, broad one minute, pathos-ridden the next.

We'll close with Kline. He isn't fooling anyone playing a cranky, dried-out Florida retiree. Kline has such natural dash and brio as a performer, it's a bit of a joke watching him attempt to quash it and rechannel it as cuddly adorability. And yet it's entertaining watching him trying to turn himself into Eli Wallach, while "Last Vegas" pulls demurely raunchy variations on the theme of Prostate Trouble meets Sin City.


'Last Vegas'

MPAA rating: PG-13 for sexual content and language

Running time: 1 hour, 44 minutes

Playing: In general release


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