The tagline for Last Vegas is pretty optimistic when it says that “It’s going to be legendary.” You would think gathering Oscar winners Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Kevin Kline and Morgan Freeman for the first time in the same movie would be just that, but after witnessing Last Vegas… is it?
It is, and for many reasons… not the least of which is it has so much heart and hilarity because director Jon Turteltaub orchestrates it all with a symphonic conductor’s precision knowing exactly when to ebb and when to flow. Turteltaub could have taken a step back and let the enchanting story and four extraordinary actors do their thing and the film probably still would have been solid. But, his touches are all over Last Vegas and the result is a surprisingly resonant movie.
It is established in the opening moments of the film, and even teased in the Last Vegas trailer, that our four leads have been friends since they were little. Growing up in New York, their pride in their neighborhood was reflected in their moniker, the Flatbush Four. Decades have gone by and they are still (mostly) in touch. So, when Douglas’ Billy calls his pals to say he’s getting married (to a seriously younger woman), they all hatch a plan to meet in Las Vegas for a bachelor party/reunion of friends of five decades.
Freeman’s Archie lives with his overprotective son who is afraid his father’s health is failing, even if it really isn’t. Kline reluctantly lives in Florida with his wife and his Sam feels he is too young to be living amongst the “almost” dead. Meanwhile, De Niro is Paddy, and he still resides in New York and is mourning the loss of his beloved wife. Although it has been over a year, he still lives his life in the shadow of her passing.
Needless to say, the idea of a Las Vegas weekend is appealing!
Once the quartet gets to Sin City, immediately there is a warmth between characters that burns as bright as the city's lights. The four actors wield their almost two centuries of collective acting experience to produce scenes that never feel pushed, put upon by the audience, overly sappy or silly. Instead, the quartet of actors knows these men, and more importantly, they know how these men interact with the others.
Then, there is Mary Steenburgen, also a fellow Oscar winner. She plays a lounge singer who catches a few of our foursome’s eyes, which stirs up a little rivalry that seems unresolved. See, every solid film has to have conflict, but here in Last Vegas it is as real as it gets. Our Last Vegas review has to credit screenwriter Dan Fogelman, Turteltaub and his quintet of Academy Award winners for pulling it off.
Last Vegas is like one of those terrific terrycloth robes that is provided in your room in Las Vegas. While you’re wearing it, you never want to take it off. And more importantly, when the trip is done… you want to take it home.