Friday, November 1, 2013

Last Vegas review

We are now in the month of November. In a typical year the start of November would mean that Oscar season has begun. Not this year. Oscar season began a long time ago. If anything, November is more of a break from Oscar fare. While there are some contenders being released (Philomena, 12 Years A Slave in wide release, and the limited releases of Mandela, Dallas Buyers Club and The Book Thief), the month of November prominently features blockbuster films such as Thor: The Dark World, Ender's Game and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

Also opening in the month of November, this weekend in fact, is a little film called Last Vegas. It's flown under the radar for the last month, as it is neither an Oscar heavyweight nor an action blockbuster. Last Vegas stars Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Robert De Niro, and Kevin Kline, and it's sort of an elderly version of The Hangover. In fact, that's exactly what it is. However, instead of raunchy laughs from Zach Galifianakis and Ken Jeong, Last Vegas is a film that is both very funny and has a lot of heart. Mix that with a very likable cast and a fun story, and you get a fun time at the movies.

Last Vegas tells the story of four childhood friends (Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Robert De Niro, and Kevin Kline) who have gone their separate ways and aged along the way. They're now in their late 60's and have become insanely bored with their lives. However, when Billy (Douglas) reveals to Archie (Freeman) and Sam (Kline) that he's getting married to a much younger woman in Vegas, Archie and Sam convince Billy to go to Vegas and have a bachelor party. But first, they must convince Paddy (De Niro) to settle his differences with Billy and get their childhood group together for one final ride through Vegas. Parties, sexual endeavors, alcohol and a love triangle with Mary Steenburgen ensues.

Look, this movie is certainly not going to win any awards. Despite the insane star power of the lead actors, Last Vegas is meant to be a fun, light, holiday-time diversion. And on that front, it delivers. The plot of this film is insanely predictable, and it is riddled with comedy cliches. Almost every review of this film has noted that, before proceeding to bash the film. I agree with the predictability of the film and the cliches, but I really liked this film. Last Vegas banks on the humor of Dan Fogelman's script and the likability of the four lead actors and it totally gets away with it. This is a good crowd-pleaser that should play well over the holiday season.

The acting is good throughout this film, even though the four actors don't exactly stretch outside of their comfort zones. Robert De Niro is still the grouchy old man. Morgan Freeman is the one who wants to act like he's a young man again. Michael Douglas is the rich guy. Kevin Kline is the man who feels contained by his life and wants to party in Vegas. I would say that the standout performance comes from De Niro, who shows some legitimate emotion in the role. It's not like the work he did in Silver Linings Playbook last year, but it's still very good. The cast isn't great individually, but they have exceptional chemistry and make this movie worth the price of admission alone.

The plot is cliched and incredibly predictable. I can't stress that enough, because if you go into this movie looking for anything but a good time, you won't get it. The Oscar-winning actors are playing around in a different genre this time. However, the plot allows for the oft-hilarious humor and sometimes interesting plot themes to flow, and does it in a way that makes the movie obvious, yet still fun.

If you look at the marketing for Last Vegas, it markets the film as the geriatric version of The Hangover. While the film features some aspects of the 2009 comedy instant classic (drinking, sex and partying), this is more of a film that celebrates life and old age. That may be reading too deep into a film that seems like a simple comedy, but regardless of what you think, those themes are there. The film depicts these characters as fun guys who impress everyone around them, along with exploring how these guys have still remained friends after sixty years and the road blocks along the way.

I've pretty much mentioned everything about this film that is good and bad. I hope you understand that I really enjoyed this movie, despite clearly recognizing that it is a cliched, somewhat forgettable film. However, I've purposely neglected to mention one thing. This movie is ridiculously funny. I really thought that it was just downright hilarious at times. These four actors deliver the humor so effortlessly that it's fun to just go along with the ride. At times, the movie feels like one massive party. That's totally a compliment. The humor and the tone carry this movie through the plot issues and predictability and make this film so very enjoyable. I don't think that anyone will not have a good time with this film. It's just too fun.

In the end, Last Vegas is a very enjoyable film that I highly recommend watching with family over the various holidays this year. If you are serious about film and are hoping for an innovative, interesting unpredictable comedy, go somewhere else. But if you're looking for a good time, take a trip to Last Vegas. I anticipate audiences loving this film and it'll probably have very good legs through the month of November.

THE FINAL GRADE:  B                                           (7.4/10)

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