It feels like Hollywood tradition to assemble veteran actors for projects that celebrate their legacies while poking fun at their advancing age. "Grumpy Old Men" is one of the more successful efforts that springs to mind, pairing up Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau with Ann-Margaret for a small-town love triangle. "Space Cowboys" was one of the most forgettable, launching Clint Eastwood into space alongside Tommy Lee Jones, James Garner and Donald Sutherland. Sadly, "Last Vegas," a well-intentioned tale of four old friends who go to Vegas for a bachelor party, is a candidate for the forgettable category.
Without any 3D effects or IMAX scope to coax you into theaters, the makers of "Last Vegas" are hoping to draw you with a dream team cast, and they almost pull it off. Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Robert DeNiro and Kevin Kline are some of the most celebrated actors of their generation, and the notion of them on the big screen together is enticing. Unfortunately, "Last Vegas" is less than the sum of its parts. Those four Hollywood veterans probably had a nice time hanging out in Vegas to shoot this movie, but actors of their caliber deserved a much better script than this. And audiences will feel pretty short-changed, too.
Douglas and company play a group of childhood friends almost 60 years removed from their teenage heyday as "The Flatbush Four." Three of the four went on to normal lives, married and had children, but as the group is approaching 70, their de facto leader Billy (Douglas) finally decides to settle down and get married himself to a woman about four decades his junior (insert your own Catherine Zeta-Jones joke here). Hence, the gang gets back together for a last fling in Vegas before the wedding. Unfortunately, the effects of age, longstanding bad blood, and a middle-aged lounge singer named Diana (Mary Steenbergen) get in the way.
From here, "Last Vegas" invites the audience to enjoy the ride (and a constant stream of old person jokes) as the Flatbush Four stumble their way through a weekend of debauchery. Blackjack is played. Parties are attended. Bikini contests are judged. And along the way, when the glitz loses its shimmer, they finally learn what is important in life: friendship. Which would be great if the film didn't seem to have so much fun glorifying the shallow lifestyle it's trying to condemn.
Confused morals aside, the sexual content and routine humor are only the least of the reasons audiences should skip this film. The true disappointment is seeing actors of this caliber wasted on a lowbrow by-the-numbers comedy. Better to dig into the DVD collection and revisit the titles that made these people famous in the first place.
For a film about a Las Vegas bachelor party, "Last Vegas" could have been a lot more explicit. Yet it earns its PG-13 rating with consistent profanity (including a single use of the "F-word"), sexual content and some vulgar humor.
Joshua Terry is a freelance writer and photojournalist who appears weekly on the "KJZZ Movie Show" and also teaches English composition for Salt Lake Community College. You can see more of his work at www.woundedmosquito.com.