November 01, 2013

Movie Review: Last Vegas

By Carl Kozlowski *
Las Vegas has gone through plenty of changes over the past 60 years, since it was the playground of Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack, and had an air of class and mystery to go with the wicked fun it offered visitors in a myriad of ways. And in the new movie “Last Vegas,” four lifelong buddies come to realize that they’ve changed a lot too over the 58 years they’ve known each other, while trying to reclaim their youthful magic over the course of a wild and surprisingly meaningful bachelor party weekend.

It would be easy to assume that the movie is just an attempt to make some easy money off the success of “The Hangover” movies by altering the antics for its older generation of stars: Michael Douglas, Robert DeNiro, Morgan Freeman, and Kevin Kline. That’s a winning cast, indeed, as all four of those master thespians are Oscar winners who amazingly have never worked together in any combination before – and they’re buttressed further by Oscar-winning actress Mary Steenburgen, who plays a lounge singer who beguiles both Douglas and DeNiro and gives the movie its surprisingly strong sense of heart.

The movie kicks off in 1955, when the friends were 12 years old and called themselves the “Flatbush Four” as they chased girls and engaged in neighborhood escapades. But in a hilarious switch, the movie cuts to the present day with a title card reading “58 Years Later” and shows that Sam (Kline) has been married 40 years and is already trapped in a retirement community with much older people, while Archie (Freeman) recently suffered a minor stroke that resulted in his over-concerned son keeping him on house arrest, and Paddy (DeNiro) has spent the past year wearing a bathrobe in his apartment and mourning the loss of his wife.

That leaves it up to Billy (Douglas) to be living the high life, shacked up with a 31-year-old girlfriend in a Malibu beach house until he’s forced to perform the eulogy at the funeral of a friend who was just two years older than himself. Feeling his mortality while up at the pulpit, Billy vows to live life to the fullest and proposes to his girlfriend right there at the service.

And so the four friends reunite in Vegas for Billy’s bachelor party weekend, with each of Billy’s buddies hoping to recapture some magic of their own while Billy suddenly has cold feet. The reason for his reticence is a lounge singer (Mary Steenburgen) he stumbles upon and has an instant connection with: a connection that is age-appropriate and makes him realize that even at 70, it may be time to grow up.

There are plenty of rowdy moments along the way, as Sam is surprised to find his wife has given him an envelope with a condom, a Viagra pill and a “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” note and sets out to use his free weekend pass. Archie is dying to gamble and drink, with funny results, and Paddy is desperate to break out of his depression.

There are plenty of moments in the movie that appear to be heading into morally questionable territory, especially in Sam’s quest to commit adultery and his wife’s bizarre decision to encourage that behavior.Additionally, the men ogle seemingly every attractive female in town, particularly during a largely pointless bikini contest in which they bribe their way into being judges. But ultimately, Sam makes the right decision in touching fashion and DeNiro provides a strong moral voice to the proceedings as he warns them that their quest to make poor moral choices will only lead to lasting unhappiness.

The fellas also drink too much and wind up with big hangovers, but Catholics are one Christian denomination that can handle some drinking, so adults and older teens shouldn’t have any problem handling this movie. Otherwise, there is a frequent smattering of mild profanities including the S-word, A-word and some rude ribbing among the guys, but just one F word in addition to about 20 uses of God’s or Jesus’ name in vain. Even if it’s not morally right, it doesn’t stand out as intentionally abusive in the context of four old men on a rowdy weekend.

Perhaps the biggest positive is that the men’s friendship is truly built on love and concern for one another, and for each others’ well-being. Most of all, “Last Vegas” shows that in these times of medical miracles, one shouldn’t discount the Boomer generation’s (or those even older) willingness and ability to live and love vibrantly, and that’s a winning message indeed.

Carl Kozlowski has been a professional film critic and essayist for the past five years at Pasadena Weekly, in addition to the Christian movie site, the conservative pop culture site Breitbart.coms Big Hollywood, the Christian pop culture magazine Relevant and New City newspaper in Chicago. He also writes in-depth celebrity interviews for and The Progressive. He is owner of the podcasting site, which was named one of the Frontier Fifty in 2013 as one of the 50 best talk-radio outlets in the nation by and will be relaunching it in January 2014 after a five-month sabbatical. He lives in Los Angeles.

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.

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