Bachelor bashes, and all the raunchy, slaphappy antics that define them, have always tickled Hollywood's fancy. Thirty years ago, a young Tom Hanks scored big with the zany farce 'Bachelor Party,' and though the subject has never gone out of style, the monster success of 'The Hangover' and its two sequels a quarter of a century later inspired a wave of copycat films. First came 'Bridesmaids,' which put a feminine spin on the familiar storyline - and proved gals could be just as gross, uninhibited, and moronic as guys - and now there's 'Last Vegas,' a geriatric spin-off that sends four lifelong buddies out to Sin City to celebrate the impending nuptials of one of their own. In case you're wondering, the over-65 set can act with as much imbecilic irresponsibility as their half-as-old and half-witted counterparts once they get a whiff of the Strip's tantalizing and titillating temptations. Old guy jokes, however - most of which refer in some way to Viagra - quickly wear thin, and as a result, Jon Turteltaub's well-intentioned and surprisingly sweet comedy can't quite compete with its big-boy cousins.
Take this exchange, for instance. A bodacious and buzzed young babe drunkenly asks an equally inebriated Kevin Kline if he has any drugs. "Does Lipitor count?" he goofily responds. Such innocuous banter is cute enough, but lacks the sting we've come to expect from similarly themed films. The screenplay by Dan Fogelman, who cut his teeth on such animated Disney films as 'Cars,' 'Bolt,' and 'Tangled' and penned one of my all-time favorite romantic comedies, 'Crazy Stupid Love,' nimbly mixes sequences of good-natured tomfoolery with heartwarming moments of sincerity that emphasize the lasting bonds of male friendship and bittersweet nature of aging. It all goes down as smoothly as a spoonful of Milk of Magnesia, but the predictable story isn't really the film's reason for being. Corralling an esteemed quartet of Academy Award winners - Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, and Kline (all of whom had never previously worked together) - and allowing them free rein to cavort, spar, bicker, and tenderly interact with one another is the picture's greatest attraction, and this fearsome foursome doesn't disappoint. There's a lot to be said for chemistry, and these guys have it - in spades - and though the vehicle that brings them together leaves much to be desired, this Rat Pack-like posse makes the most of the material and makes 'Last Vegas' a pleasant enough ride.
As the film opens, we're introduced to a band of tough-monkey, preteen buddies who have dubbed themselves The Flatbush Four. Fast forward 58 years and three of the aged friends have left the Brooklyn homestead. Sam (Kline) lives with his wife Miriam (Joanna Gleason) in a Florida retirement community where he filches drugs from his friends' medicine cabinets. Archie (Freeman), who has recently suffered a minor stroke, resides with his over-protective son (Michael Ealy) and his young family somewhere in suburbia, while Billy (Douglas) enjoys the high life in Malibu, dating a sexy young thing half his age. Only Paddy (De Niro) has remained in the Big Apple, and he's become a recluse in his Brooklyn apartment, mourning the death of his wife of 40 years. When lifelong bachelor Billy suddenly announces his engagement, Sam and Archie decide a Vegas stag party is in order, but convincing Paddy to attend isn't so easy. It seems there's some bad blood between him and Billy, and the rift just might spoil what's supposed to be a weekend of drunken debauchery.
Back in 1985, secret alien powers revived a group of stagnant seniors in Ron Howard's 'Cocoon,' yet in 2013, all that's needed to jumpstart the dormant libidos and sagging energy levels of a bunch of grumpy old men is a trip to Vegas. There they recapture their lost youth and discover friendship is a timeless gift that grows sweeter with age. Turteltaub, who's best known for helming the 'National Treasure' franchise (he also directed the charming romantic comedy 'While You Were Sleeping'), balances the shifts in tone well, but he's nothing without his cast, which keeps the sentiment honest and maximizes the impact of almost every verbal zinger.
Despite the wattage on display, no one star grabs focus. Screen time seems to be equally divvied up, and no scene-stealing antics get in the way of the performances. Like the characters they portray, Douglas, De Niro, Freeman, and Kline all seem to support each other, and their obvious, good-natured camaraderie infuses 'Last Vegas' with an infectious warmth that eclipses and excuses the inherent inanity of some of the scenes. Mary Steenburgen, as a bar singer who catches the eye of both Douglas and De Niro, complements the quartet well and does a lot with a thankless role.
So as not to alienate its target audience (do we all really become more prudish as we age?), 'Last Vegas' sought and received a PG-13 rating. The constraints of such a classification, however, occasionally seem to stymie the film. As it stands, 'Last Vegas' is a pleasant enough, star-driven diversion that provides the occasional laugh and heartstring tug, but what I wouldn't give to see the Martin Scorsese version of this movie, which would surely let these boys be boys.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Last Vegas' arrives on Blu-ray packaged in a standard case inside a glossy sleeve. A 50GB dual-layer Blu-ray disc, standard-def DVD, along with a leaflet that provides an access code to download the Digital HD Ultraviolet digital copy sit snugly inside the case. Video codec is 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 and default audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Once the disc is inserted into the player, an Ultraviolet promo, followed by previews for 'Blue Jasmine,' 'Bad Country,' and 'Captain Phillips' precede the full-motion menu with music.
As glorious as the Bellagio fountains, this 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer from Sony beautifully showcases the over-the-top glitz, glamour, and neon splendor of Las Vegas. (Who knew Sin City could look so antiseptically clean?) Crisp and clear, with superior contrast, no grain, and a lush color palette, the image is perfectly balanced from start to finish, adapting to various lighting, settings, and locations with ease. Not an errant speck, mark, or scratch dots the pristine source material, which sports fine detail and depth levels, allowing us to drink in all the ornate décor and curvaceous, bikini-clad bodies with ease. Close-ups are razor sharp, spotlighting Freeman's freckles, Kline's shaggy beard, and Douglas' fake tan, and exterior scenes are so bright and vibrant, we almost feel like we're cruising the Strip with the actors.
Rich, deep blacks supply necessary warmth and weight to the picture, the silky white of De Niro's tuxedo possesses wonderfully defined lines, and fleshtones remain solid and stable throughout. (I was going to add the adjective "natural," but Douglas' spray-on looks anything but!) Vegas is a town of many hues, and all of them are nicely saturated here, accentuating the city's decadent atmosphere.
No crush, banding, noise, or pixilation disrupt this ultra-smooth presentation, and no digital doctoring, such as edge enhancement or DNR, seems to have been applied. Visually, 'Last Vegas' is a stunner, and will surely inspire you want to book a trip to Las Vegas as quickly as possible.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track supplies clear, nicely nuanced sound, even if surround elements are lacking. Pronounced stereo separation across the front channels widens the track's scope, and processed atmospherics, such as chirping birds, occasionally bleed into the rears. The hustle and bustle of Vegas is well rendered, whether the characters are roaming the Strip, playing blackjack in the casino, or cavorting in a nightclub; all the extraneous noise is well integrated into the mix and always distinct, never cacophonous. The music score and all the pop tracks that are sprinkled throughout enjoy excellent fidelity and fill the room well, and a wide dynamic scale handles all the highs and lows with ease.
Every word of dialogue is clear and easy to understand, and no distortion, surface noise, or other imperfections afflict the track. Though far from spectacular, 'Last Vegas' features solid audio that complements the movie well.
A few extras flesh out this Blu-ray release. Unfortunately, the featurettes are all brief, vapid, shallow, and not worth anyone's time.
It's always fun to watch a group of respected, serious actors goof around, and 'Last Vegas' allows Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, and Kevin Kline the chance to do just that. Though the end result isn't as raucous or hysterical as one might hope, Jon Turteltaub's geriatric comedy is entertaining enough, and puts a sweet, heartwarming spin on such well-worn themes as abiding friendship, second chances, and living life to the fullest. All four actors shine in their respective parts, and like a dose of Viagra, their enthusiasm perks up this pedestrian project. Sony's Blu-ray presentation is as slick as the Vegas Strip, with a top-flight video transfer, solid audio, and a decent smattering of generic extras. As weeknight rentals go, you could do a lot worse than 'Last Vegas.' Legends aside, it's a great advertisement for Sin City.