There’s a chuckle here and a snort there, but nothing all that funny ever happens in “Last Vegas.” At least not funny enough to justify an all-star cast of Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline and Mary Steenburgen.
The writing aims for the middle, humdrum range — lots of old-age jokes and the usual Las Vegas shenanigans involving drinking, gambling and girls with silicone.
All too often these all-stars are caught standing around trading quips or watching the antics of extras and actors in smaller roles instead of diving into nice, chewy scenes among themselves.
Don Fogelman never moved his screenplay out of the concept stage: Four old-timers hit Vegas and discover things have changed. A $10 tip won’t get you past the doorman.
When did it ever in Vegas?
The set-up is okay as far as it goes: A bunch of adolescent pals calling themselves the “Flatbush Four,” who tore up Brooklyn some 50 … well, nearly 60 years ago, reunite in Vegas to throw a bachelor party for the one member who has successful avoided matrimony until now. That would be Douglas’ Billy.
Billy, now a resident of Malibu and something of a hotshot, plans to marry a woman less than half his age. So cue the “child bride” jokes, the best although least elegant of which comes from Freeman’s Archie who declares he’s got a hemorrhoid nearly as old as Billy’s bride.
Not that Archie can’t wait to go. For him the Vegas shindig represents a chance to get away from his all-controlling son and a regimen of pills, vitamins and strict bedtimes.
Kline’s Sam has been given a pass by his wife that includes a Viagra pill and condom in hopes that whatever he does in Vegas will bring him back as the man he once was.
For De Niro’s Paddy, a widower still in grief over his deceased wife, the weekend affords him a final opportunity to tell Billy what he really thinks about him — for missing his wife’s funeral, not delivering the eulogy and other disappointments he’s suffered from this erstwhile friend.
So these thin plot threads — Sam’s kid-in-a-candy-shop search for a floozie, Archie’s gambling with his life savings and Billy and Paddy making the Odd Couple look like Love Birds — nudge the lackluster comedy forward until the “boys” finally meet Steenburgen’s Diana.
She’s a tax attorney turned lounge singer — in Vegas anything is possible — who is immediately attracted to this gang of four, especially the bridegroom. When she finds out about his plans for the weekend, this doesn’t put her off the scent — she simply realizes she’s tracking a different sort of animal and she adjusts.
The film picks up with Diana but, unfortunately, she pops in and out of various scenarios such as Archie’s winnings getting the boys booked into a penthouse suite meant for high rollers and Sam’s skirt-chasing diverted by a Madonna impersonator (Roger Bart).
Not much of the comedy sparks, however. The four guys play off each other well enough and do even better in twosomes or when paired with Steenburgen.
A mildly dramatic revelation about Paddy, Billy and his wife that dates back to their teens animates the third act a bit, but like nearly every subplot in “Last Vegas” the outcome is a foregone conclusion.
Hollywood seldom does movies about older folks well. Aging characters usually come off as caricatures such as Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthew played toward the end of their screen partnership. Those movies, invariably written by younger writers, let age become the issue that dominates everything in the characters’ lives.
The Vegas setting shakes these old-timers out of their doldrums to a degree, but the movie acts as if no one over 40 ever goes to that city. Have any of the filmmakers spent any time there?
Jon Turteltaub (“National Treasure,” “While You Were Sleeping”) directs evenly but with little flair or even interest in what these guys’ real problems might be as opposed to the artificial ones that dominate the movie.
If you do want to see a good American comedy about age, then here’s a tip: Two older films that do justice to aging yet maintain a strong sense of comedy are Martin Brest’s “Going in Style” (1979) and Paul Mazursky’s “Harry and Tonto” (1974). Meanwhile Alexander Payne has a little gem upcoming, “Nebraska,” that may be the best film about aging folks since his “About Schmidt.”
Opens: November 1, 2013 (CBS Films)
Production companies: CBS Films, Good Universe
Cast: Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline, Mary Steenburgen, Jerry Ferrara, Romany Malco, Roger Bart, Joanna Gleason, Michael Ealy, Bre Blair
Director: Jon Turteltaub
Screenwriters: Don Fogelman
Producers: Lawrence Mark, Amy Baer
Executive producers: Lawrence Grey, Nathan Kahane, Jeremiah Samuels
Director of photography: David Hennings
Production designer: David J. Bomba
Music: Mark Mothersbaugh
Costume designer: Dayna Pink
Editor: David Rennie
PG-13 rating, 108 minutes