Saturday, November 2, 2013

Bucket List Hangover: LAST VEGAS

Far and away the funniest thing about Last Vegas, a comedy about a bunch of old guys reuniting for a weekend in Las Vegas, is something that’s not intended to be a joke. It’s a movie about guys trying to recapture their better days that hopes the audience remembers its cast’s. Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Robert DeNiro, and Kevin Kline have been on the big screen since before I was born and in their many decades of work have been in some of the best movies of all time. Last Vegas is not among their better efforts, but at least it’s not a total embarrassment. It’s certainly not any more than not an embarrassment, but that’s not nothing. The movie is built only to capitalize on their likability derived from all their time spent building up loads of audience affection. It’s counting on it, in fact, to fill in generic jokes and slight plotting. The movie is pleasant, undemanding, and flimsy.

It’s an old person hangout movie in which likable and wrinkly familiar faces sit around and enjoy each other’s company while working through some old tensions that are saddled upon their characters in a mostly doomed attempt to differentiate them from the actors’ personas. The story starts when the guy played by Michael Douglas calls his old pals and tells them he’s getting married in Vegas that weekend. They, being retired and not particularly busy, make the appropriate travel arrangements and head off for a septuagenarian bachelor party. It’s The Bucket List by way of The Hangover, but not nearly as schmaltzy or raunchy as that comparison suggests. There’s all the gentle geriatric humor you’d suspect such a premise would invite.

Talk of surgery, pills, and doctors’ orders mixes freely with misunderstanding slang, fumbling around gadgets, shouting over pounding nightclub music, and talking to the much younger partiers around them. One young lady tells Kline he reminders her of “Grandpa Lou.” The concierge tells them their suite was previously booked by 50 Cent. “Fifty people in here?” Freeman marvels. A nice lounge singer played by Mary Steenburgen shows up from time to time, and she’s a nice break from the borderline sleazy montages of poolside bikinis and showgirls. It’s nice to give the guys someone closer to their own age to interact with.

Director Jon Turteltaub, who as of late has been making tame action movies like National Treasure for Disney, and screenwriter Dan Fogelman, of Crazy, Stupid, Love and The Guilt Trip, keep the proceedings loose and mellow. They don’t spend too much time insisting on their movie’s funniness, which makes it easier to take the fact that it isn’t all that funny. It goes down smoothly since it’s not spending its time being obviously unfunny. It’s just watchable and friendly. Even the prerequisite mistaken identity crossdresser gag is relatively kind and free of shame or awkwardness, as a more casually hateful comedy would stoop to. No, here all are welcome to relax with the old guys, have a few drinks, reminisce, play some blackjack, and party till it’s time to take more Lipitor. It’s too somnambulant to work up the energy for more than a handful of moments that even threaten to be in bad taste.

Without being in a hurry to get much of anywhere, Last Vegas simply shuffles along through rote comic beats and unrushed sightseeing. Someone’s going to fall into the pool. Someone’s going to either win or lose a great deal of his pension on the casino floor. Someone’s going to try to use that little blue pill before the weekend is over. It’s a film that lazily lollops its way to pretty much exactly where you think it’ll go. There’s not much inherently funny about any of this – no, not when Kline puts on his reading glasses to ogle a pretty girl, or when Freeman busts a disco move, or when DeNiro is grinded upon by LMFAO’s Redfoo. It’s barely even worth a chuckle when 50 Cent turns up as himself, asking the guys to keep the noise down because he’s trying to sleep. It’s supposed to be funny because he’s 50 Cent, much like the rest of the lame jokes are supposed to be funny because of the cast of legendary actors who also happen to be old. It’s a bland, vacant experience. I’d rather see a movie about what these guys did between takes. Over the credits they could roll footage of whatever they’ve bought with their paychecks. 

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