- Better when it remembers it’s a comedy than when it tries to be dramatic, Last Vegas has charm and is always entertaining, but it falls when it tries to incorporate and eventually resolve a melodramatic back story.
- There are many laugh worthy moments in this film, most of them involving Archie (Morgan Freeman) or the group’s treatment of Dean (Jerry Ferrara).
- In point of fact, Archie’s dramatic story arc is also the most moving, so the question must be asked: why is Archie’s story the most comedic as well as the most dramatic? In short, his introduction and eventual arc is the most real. He’s suffered a mild stroke, has a well meaning son doting on him too intensely, and he needs freedom, however much of it he can get. That is both relatable and believable.
- The same is not true of the other principle characters. Sam’s story (Kevin Kline) is taken, more or less, from too many teen sex comedies, and Paddy’s (Robert De Niro) and Billy’s (Michael Douglas) wants us to believe, for much of the film anyway, that women make life-long decisions at the direction of the men in their lives. These are not normal story arcs with relatable emotion at their center; they’re cinematic concoctions, the latter of which tries to force our emotion more than it tries to access it. Therein is why the drama does not measure up to the comedy.
- Which is not to say Last Vegas is bad. It isn’t. Not in the least. The cast is universally strong, reminding us why these actors have captivated us, how they have commanded the screen, for as long as they have. None of them make us forget we’re watching movie stars with incredible stature, but that almost works to film’s benefit. We feel like we know these characters better than the screenplay would otherwise facilitate.
- Writer Dan Fogelman and director Jon Turteltaub mostly treat those of advanced age with dignity and careful empathy, even in Sam’s case where an older man pursues twenty-something girls for a sleazy one night stand. Sam’s is a story that should prove insulting to men his age, but Fogelman and Turtletaub find the right balance, the perfect approach, so it never does.
- Most importantly, when Last Vegas isn’t mistakenly taking itself too seriously, it is fun. Incredibly so. De Niro’s riff on his mobster personality and Kline’s fumbling in the same scene produces some of the most humorous filmmaking I have seen in 2013.
- In other words, Last Vegas isn’t great cinema, not by any stretch, but it is entertaining.
- Final Grade: C+