After an actor gives a string of unforgettable and iconic performances for decades , perhaps he deserves a certain level of forgiveness for churning out subpar fare in his later years. The olds dogs learning new tricks comedy Last Vegas is certainly not something so terrible it should mar the reputations of its high-caliber stars, Kevin Kline, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, and Michael Douglas. But neither is it something worthy of a highlight reel of their illustrious career. At best, it's a serviceable comedy that offers tired jokes that mostly play on the age of its stars. At worst, it's a waste of time (theirs) and money (possibly yours).
58 years ago, a lasting friendship was formed in the tough streets of Brooklyn, New York, by a group of boys who called themselves the Flatbush Four. But today the pluck of these boys needs to re-emerge as each has fallen into a miserable rut. Sheepish Sam (Kline) is a bored retiree living with his wife in Florida without hope of excitement. Tough guy Paddy (De Niro) is a bitter widower grimly hiding in his Brooklyn apartment, scowling at the neighbor girl who brings him soup. Levelheaded Archie (Freeman) is a divorced granddad who'd be happy to spend his retirement playing with his baby granddaughter if it weren't for his overprotective son who worries tirelessly about his dad's health. Lastly, the braggart Billy (Michael Douglas) has grown tired of bedding a barrage of younger women, and so on a whim proposes to his latest conquest at the funeral of his late mentor.
Though Paddy and Billy have been estranged since the former lost his wife, the Flatbush Four reluctantly regroup in Las Vegas to give Billy's bachelorhood a long overdue going away party. Yes, it's meant to be The Hangover for the senior citizen set. There's gambling, strip clubs, drag queens, Cirque Du Soleil performers, and even drug use--if you count Lipitor and Vodka Redbulls as drug use. Predictably, the crew questions Billy's intentions in marrying a woman half his age, but a new and more suitable love interest is quickly introduced in the form of a sassy lounge singer played by Mary Steenburgen. Complications arise as Paddy's broken heart begins to mend imagining a life with this vibrant and buxom songstress.
The plot is insipid, but aptly sets up some set pieces that its stars make work, like Archie's less-than-daring escape from his first-story bedroom in his son's home. Freeman is by far the film's best asset. He is totally game for whatever the script demands, be it playing a loopy drunk hell bent on dancing or doing some silly slapstick with Kline. For his part Kline is also wonderful, but handed a cringe-inducing plot line, given a free pass at infidelity for the weekend along with a condom that he won't stop telling people about. This naturally leads to him flirting with a woman decades younger than him who decides that even though he reminds her of her grandpa Lou, she will try to seduce him. Forget daddy issues. Last Vegas brings on granddaddy issues. And it's unsettling.
Douglas and De Niro offer weaker performances than their co-stars, delivering painfully one-note performances. But it seems impossible to blame them completely as the script from Dan Fogelman gives Paddy little to do but mope. Thankfully, supporting players Steenburgen, Jerry Ferrara (as a hot headed young punk) and Romany Malco (as an uptight concierge) give the narrative some much needed life. Still, it's a wildly uneven ride that makes for too little fun to be worth the ticket price.
There's nothing here you haven't seen in some other Vegas/bachelor party movie. It's just that this time there's a slathering of jokes about artificial hips, erectile dysfunction, prostate cancer, old lady cellulite, and leering dirty old men. Star power alone should have made this movie work in spite of its color-by-the-numbers setup, and yet it didn't. While there are moments of well-earned comedy (most often thanks to Freeman and Kline who deserve a buddy movie), Last Vegas is overall a clumsy comedy that would be completely forgettable if it didn't boast four names as big as Douglas, De Niro, Freeman and Kline.