DVD Review: 'Last Vegas'

★★★☆☆
Greeted with more than a few sighs of when it was mooted, it was hardly surprising that many saw Jon Turtletaub's Last Vegas (2013) as a misfire-in-waiting rather than a breezy comedy. But while many were quick to put it down before its release, the film can be considered a success, with good word-of-mouth and a decent box office (a healthy $134 million worldwide gross). Even more surprising, the film is actually much funnier than it would lead you to believe. Lifelong friends Paddy (Robert DeNiro), Archie (Morgan Freeman) and Sam (Kevin Kline) reunite after many years apart to throw a no-expenses-spared bachelor party for the last singleton of their party, Billy (Michael Douglas).

Deciding to hit Las Vegas for a change of scene rather than the typical debauchery and gambling that tends to come hand in hand with the Nevada desert, the gents soon get their heads turned, and decide that while they are still young enough, and medicated enough, that one last party may not be so bad, and may even repair some old scars from their younger days. Screenwriter Dan Fogelman (The Guilt Trip) once again sticks pretty close to Hollywood formula, and rarely threatens to swerve from it. Instead, he and Turtletaub (National Treasure) play it safe, and make the film work on their cast's collective appeal, which gives the film enough spirit and gusto to overcome the predictable premise. It's not gut-bustlingly funny, but in its likable and relaxed approach, it raises itself above the norm.

It's Freeman and Kline who steal the show: freed of the more dramatic shackles that seem to fit him easier these days, Freeman is given license to roam and be a little more carefree, rather than narrate or invent things for billionaires. Kline, meanwhile, a consummate comedian throughout his career, is equally impressive. It's a mini-travesty that we don't get to see him really stretch those comedy chops as he so often as he should, and while the hair and beard leave a little to be desired, his timing and jesting are as good as ever. Douglas and DeNiro meanwhile are a little out of sorts, decent enough throughout, the former typically boyish and charming, while the latter looking particularly uncomfortable and desperate to leave, as he has done in many films of late. Last Vegas is nothing groundbreaking, but it never tries to be. Funny enough to keep its flimsy story together, the cast have a ball together, with Freeman and Kline superb. And while this type of road-trip/drunken escapade may have jumped the shark a while back, Last Vegas is a nice little reminder that any genre is worth retreading with this type of talent involved.

Scott Davis

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