There is a moment about halfway through “Last Vegas” when one half of the recently split party rock duo LMFAO, a guy who goes by the stage name “Redfoo,” removes his pants and thrusts his Speedo-wrapped crotch in Robert De Niro’s face. The scene comes at the tail end of a poolside bikini contest which De Niro and his cohorts (Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, and Kevin Kline) have been gleefully judging, thus making the jaw-dropping shame of it stand in stark contrast to all the fun the foursome had before someone decided it was time for an Oscar winner to get face-humped by a sparkle-panted rapper.
When it comes to films like “Last Vegas,” there is a fine line between “oh, it seems that everyone appearing in this film is having so much fun” and “oh, this is embarrassing for all involved parties.” Fortunately enough for Jon Turteltaub’s latest, as scripted by Dan Fogelman, the film seems content to dance back and forth across said line, never quite going full-shame, but never coming off as pure fun-fluff either.
We open with a flashback sequence – in order to know our sixty-something leading men, we apparently need to know them as scrappy tweens back in Brooklyn – with the “Flatbush Four” (plus one young lass) piling into an old-timey photo booth to mug at the camera(s). If nothing else, the “Last Vegas” casting team did aces work finding kids who look like their older counterparts, and it’s pretty disappointing that we never get to see them after the opening scene has passed (if they took the time and attention to apply an appropriate mole to the face of RJ Fattori, here playing the younger version of Paddy’s character, Billy, they certainly could have taken the time to toss them in more). The group is inseparable and, yes, exceedingly scrappy, so it’s clearly meant to be upsetting when we zoom nearly sixty decades into the future to find them separated and not so scrappy.
Like many bros before them, the men of “Last Vegas” set out for Sin City in search of the world’s craziest bachelor party, even if they need to bring fanny packs and Lipitor with them. It’s Douglas’ Billy who is getting married (for the first time, no less), and it’s Billy who requests the presence of retired military man Archie (Freeman), now trapped at home by his overly involved son Michael Ealy), and snowbird Sam (Kline), bored out of his skull down in Florida, where water aerobics and four o’clock dinner parties are the norm. It’s up to Archie and Sam to procure scowling old Paddy, a shut-in still reeling from the death of his beloved wife. If you’ve guessed that there’s a reason why Billy shirks his duties in regards to Paddy, you’re right, and that oft-mentioned reason leads up to a last-act secret reveal that’s both totally gross (at least emotionally speaking) and strangely essential, even if it comes far too late and with little of believable consequence. “Last Vegas” doesn’t really go all in on big feelings, but the complexities of Paddy and Billy’s friendship eventually add a very necessary gooey center to the film (and they are a breath of fresh air after an absurdly overloaded middle act).
Billy, a Malibu businessman, is all about staying young – young wife, cool house, hip clothes, an overly tan and dyed skin and hair color palette his pals term “hazelnut,” all that stuff – but he’s slipping. After all, he does propose to his thirtysomething gal pat at a funeral. The dude needs something, okay? And that something is some hot Vegas action, cribbed right out of “The Hangover”! Will there be a funny nightclub scene? Will someone make fun of Archie’s fanny pack? Will there be a gambling subplot? Will Fifty Cent show up? Will there be a swanky hotel villa? Will there be a totally insane lie that somehow involves the mob? Will there be dancing? Will Mary Steenburgen pop up as a romantic foil who looks just like Paddy’s dead wife (even though no one ever mentions it)? Yes, all this, and Morgan Freeman screaming that drinking a Red Bull and vodka is like “getting drunk and electrocuted at the same time.” It’s a kitchen sink comedy, if your kitchen sink was filled with top-shelf liquor, glitter, and bad decisions. And don’t forget Redfoo crotch. Do not ever forget that (even if you try to, oh, how you will try to).
Though the film makes quick work of “but they’re old” jokes (predictably enough, Kevin Kline’s Sam is unable to work his own cell phone within the film’s first ten minutes), there are plenty of amusing bits here that work, and surprisingly so. “Last Vegas,” though somewhat deranged (a subplot about Sam being allowed to cheat on his wife is always icky), is also extremely well intentioned, and its affection for its characters is obvious. Each leading man comes with their own old dude persona – the guy afraid of aging, the bored guy, the coddled grandpa, the mourning widower – but the film doesn’t try to box them into their various set characteristics, and they never become parodies of themselves.
It certainly doesn’t hurt that Douglas, De Niro, Freeman, and Kline are just plain fun to watch together. As predictable and occasionally uncomfortable as “Last Vegas” can be, it’s an assured crowd-pleaser, and if these four national treasures want to embark on another adventure together (“Final Finland”? “Ultimate Uruguay”?), it wouldn’t be the worst thing that could happen (remember, the worst thing that could happen is that a rapper humps your face for no good reason).
SCORE: 6.3 / 10