Oct. 31--"Last Vegas" is proof that some things that happen in Las Vegas should stay in Las Vegas. Even the stellar cast of Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline can't save this painfully predictable comedy from coming across like watching a landlocked version of "The Love Boat."
The standout actors play four longtime buddies who reunite in Las Vegas for the wedding of Billy (Douglas) to a woman half his age. Through a series of very contrived moments, the four get a penthouse suite and access to anything they desire in the city. All of the buddies revel in their good fortune except for the always brooding Paddy (De Niro), who is holding a grudge against Billy.
Screenwriter Dan Fogelman -- who has already shown a monumental lack of originality as executive producer and writer of the laughless ABC comedy "Neighbors" -- has assembled a series of stories for the four men that play out so obviously, the finale can be predicted before the group checks into their hotel. It would have been nice to have had one plot element that hasn't been beaten to death in countless past projects.
Here's what Fogelman considers to be original:
The lover boy played by Douglas thinks he's got the perfect catch in the thirtysomething who will become his wife. But, he sees an aging lounge singer (Mary Steenburgen) who may have him singing a different tune. There's not a single moment when it isn't very clear where this story is going.
It's the same with Kline's character, Sam, a married man who has been given the right to cheat by his wife (Joanna Gleason). You can tell a man wrote this script as soon as the wife hands her husband a blue pill and a condom and wishes him good luck -- and she doesn't mean at the poker tables. Sam eventually ends up in a bedroom with a willing young woman. The plot line plays out exactly as you would expect.
Freeman's character throwing off the worried shackles of his son and the emotional awakening by De Niro's character follow the path of predictability to the lackluster end.
Even the direction by Jon Turteltaub is flat and uninspired. One of his biggest gags is having someone pushed in a swimming pool. That's only been done in hundreds of other TV shows and movies.
The lone thing that keeps this by-the-book production from being a complete flop is that the four veteran actors go all in on their performances. Freeman could make even the reading of the telephone book seem interesting, and Kline brings a sweet comedy sense to the role. De Niro struggles with the comedy but still manages to make a couple of scenes work.
With this kind of talent, "Last Vegas" should have been the Rat Pack meets "Hangover." But not even the best of actors can give life to a script that has as much imagination as a rock. There isn't enough new material to make the movie interesting enough for moviegoers to place a bet at the box office on the film.
"Last Vegas," rated PG-13 for language, sexual content. Stars Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline. Directed by Jon Turteltaub. Running time: 90 minutes. Grade: C-
Theaters and times
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, firstname.lastname@example.org or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.
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