It comes partly as a relief and partly as a shock that Last Vegas isn't the mindless senior-citizen take on The Hangover everything about it suggests. But the script by Crazy, Stupid, Love. screenwriter Dan Fogelman, about four childhood friends from 1950s Brooklyn coming together in Las Vegas to celebrate the belated wedding of the only one of them to have never married, gives Jon Turteltaub's buddy comedy a surprising amount of heart and thoughtfulness, fleshing out the film's high concept with some perceptive, age-appropriate humour. The groom is actually the only one who is still active, both professionally and personally; everyone else is retired and ailing, though not as much from their health issues as from the lack of living their health issues force upon them. For the "Flatbush Four", this Vegas bachelor-party weekend becomes an escape from the drudgery of a closely monitored daily life of medications, loneliness and retirement communities - and if you think this is the cue for the regretful, tear-jerking "last hurrah" that, for instance, Fisher Stevens' Stand-Up Guys was, you've got another think coming.

     Mr. Fogelman refuses to play either the pity or the humiliation cards, crafting instead an engaging, complex group of characters fleshed out by a cast who, though typecast, is having the time of their life. Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline play the comic relief, with Mr. Kline particularly relishing the opportunity to play the straight man, while Michael Douglas and Robert de Niro, whose characters are locked in an old romantic rivalry and are connected by a rather unusual secret, expertly modulate the tension. The presence of an equally age-appropriate love interest played by Mary Steenburgen, as a lounge singer who reinvented herself late in life and interests both Messrs. Douglas and De Niro, brings in an intriguing, added touch that raises the bar both narratively and dramatically.

     Mr. Turteltaub, as the modern-day equivalent of an old Hollywood workaday director, handles the project in perfectly anonymous, illustrative manner, with a rather unpleasant sheen of product placement for one of the Sin City's luxurious hotels. But, thankfully, the performances are so engaging that Last Vegas becomes a funny, enjoyable entertainment, led by four pros hitting it out of the ball park without even raising a sweat.

Cast: Michael Douglas, Robert de Niro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline, Mary Steenburgen, Romany Malco, Jerry Ferrara, Roger Bart, Joanna Gleason
Director: Jon Turteltaub
Screenwriter: Dan Fogelman
Cinematography: David Hennings  (colour, widescreen)
Music: Mark Mothersbaugh
Designer: David J. Bomba
Costumes: Dayna Pink
Editor: David Rennie
Producers: Laurence Mark, Amy Baer  (CBS Films, Good Universe, Laurence Mark Productions)
USA, 2013, 105 minutes

Screened: distributor advance press screening, UCI El Corte Inglés 12, Lisbon, October 31st 2013


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