Monday, October 28, 2013

Last Stop: Geriatric Male Fantasy Adventure In Vegas

Kevin Kline as Sam, Morgan Freeman as Archie, Robert De Niro as Paddy and Michael Douglas as Billy in Jon Turteltaub's comedy "Last Vegas".  Chuck Zlotnick/CBS Films


Omar P.L. Moore/        Follow popcornreel on Twitter FOLLOW                                           
Monday, October 28, 2013

The four geezers in the photo aren't your grandfather's Rat Pack.  They aren't your father's Lords Of Flatbush.  They are, however, The Flatbush Four, a quartet of blokes from Brooklyn, New York who go way way back -- at least sixty years of friendship back -- in Jon Turteltaub's hysterically funny comedy "Last Vegas".  The film opens across the U.S. and Canada on Friday. 

Billy (Michael Douglas), 70, invites his three lifelong pals to his bachelor party and Vegas wedding, where, he boasts, he'll marry a woman half his age.  The boast is one of the film's mild slaps in the face of senior women, one of whom sashays her wrinkled mass in a bathing suit at a swimming pool in full view of Sam (Kevin Kline).  Sam's loving, dedicated wife of 40 years, Miriam (Joanna Gleason), has armed him with a Viagra pill and a condom.  It's the geriatric school lunch diet she's packed for Sam's Vegas jaunt.  "Have fun," she says.  "I don't care what you do," she adds.  Sam goes giddy.  The condom is his business card.  He gleefully announces it whenever and wherever he can.  Men will be boys.  Those boys, whom we see early on, are forever a part of them.  "Last Vegas" is a film where people want to be anything but themselves, and Las Vegas is the place where it all happens.

If Sam instead sees Helen Mirren gyrating in a bathing suit the rest of "Last Vegas" likely doesn't happen, but later we see Mary Steenburgen, the most attractive woman in a film full of beautiful women more than half her age.  Ms. Steenburgen plays Diana, a single Vegas lounge singer whose eye is trained on the self-absorbed Billy and grouchy widower Paddy (Robert De Niro), whose grudge against Billy, who didn't attend his wife's funeral, will require Grand Canyon-sized abating. 

Ironically, funerals for Billy, who confesses a fear of aging during a rare serious moment, are comfortable places.  He proposes to young Lisa (Bre Blair) at one.  It's an uncomfortable bit of bad taste felt beyond the funeral attendees, ill-fitting with the rest of Mr. Turteltaub's film and Dan Fogelman's cute if predictable script.  Conversely, very comfortable in this foolish farcical frolic is Archie (Morgan Freeman), whose hemorrhoids, he remarks, are the same age as Lisa and the women he meets.  This unsightly fact, number one in a series of T.M.I. disclosures, is also paraded either as a badge of honor or a battle scar of affirmation.  Archie, the oldest of these four horn dogs, still has charm, dance moves and intelligent words of advice, all put to good use. 

An otherwise formulaic comedy, "Last Vegas" amasses a likable quartet of Oscar winners to deliver laughs.  Over the years we've grown up with or matured alongside Messrs. Douglas, De Niro, Freeman and Kline.  It's difficult not to think of their offscreen parallels when watching "Last Vegas".  The vast majority of roles in their careers have come in serious fare.  Some of their movies ("Raging Bull", "The Bucket List", "In & Out") are suggested in Mr. Turteltaub's film.  Why not see these talents together in a movie for the first time, and why not see them let their gray hair down in a comedy?  It's better than putting three aged actors in a drama -- see this year's "Stand Up Guys".

"Last Vegas" is sentimental in parts though not overly so, save for its climax.  Of the actors, Mr. Kline, the youngest of the four at 66, has the most fun.  Mr. Kline, in his element and at his best as Sam, looks infinitely older, a shock of white in his beard and a white wig.  (For Sam in his eager quest to break the emergency "glass", luck be a lady tonight and every night.)  These Silver Sirs live out a fantasy, defying age by acting their shoe size.  They shoo away loved ones more concerned about them than they are themselves.  In their silliness they gain cache, so much so that big-name rap stars are upstaged.  It's called "respect your elders", and "Last Vegas" respects their right to party too much at times, perhaps to the point of absurdity.  Yet it is undeniably laugh-out-loud fun.  I couldn't help myself.

If we learn anything at all from "Last Vegas" it's that 60 and 70-year-old men can still say "balls" and "blow job", and say them with male pride, a modicum of self-respect and with teeth intact.  We learn, more importantly, that said men aren't too serious or too old to make fun of themselves.  While it may not be saying much, we also learn that "Last Vegas" is better than either "Hangover Part II" or "Part III" (or "Grown Ups"), all of which had significantly junior male delinquents on display
Not to be outdone, "Last Vegas" touts its own juvenile spirit in spades.  Its younger men, including the put-upon servile Dean (Jerry Ferrara, of "Entourage", "Think Like A Man") and Vegas hotel fixer-upper Lonnie (Romany Malco, "A Little Bit Of Heaven"), are at the foursome's beck-and-call.  So are the 22-year-old women who brainlessly drop their drawers on auto-cue without coaxing, alcohol or seduction.  These younger women, who may be esteem-less, desperate, horny, part of a misogynist mantra or just in love with mature men, see the men 50 years their senior as a sexy status symbol.  Very few of the younger women in "Last Vegas" appear interested in men their own age, putting the film and Vegas in a dream-like sparkle paradise for our fun-loving four.  

In relationships the film's "ancient" males are the ones some similarly-aged women complain about or run the farthest from.  ("They chase after 20-year-olds and are so immature," a friend once said.)  Yet these very sexagenarian women put up with such men, and Ms. Steenburgen and Ms. Gleason's characters are Exhibit A.  They are the two women in "Last Vegas" who make sense, in fact, the only people in it who do.  As lone voices of reason they unfortunately yield screen time to men who are 70-going on their second mid-life crisis.  The revelation of "Last Vegas" is that, despite a few appearances to the contrary, it's the women of a certain age who get to eat their cake and keep it.  If not for them this male foursome wouldn't get to have the fun they have in Vegas.  Truth is, these men cannot live without their same-aged opposites.

The message?  Be thankful to be alive.  Bow forever to the fountain of age and the throne of woman.  For neither will ever be conquered, in this life or the next.  And why should they?  One brought you into the world.  Both can take you out.

Also with: Michael Ealy, Roger Bart, Noah Harden, RJ Fattori, Aaron Bantum, Philip Wampler, Olivia Stuck, Ashley Spillers, Michael Beasley, Janay Oakland, Diana Boyle.

"Last Vegas" is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association Of America for sexual content and language.  The film's running time is one hour and 44 minutes. 

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