Some movies are hard to approach without preconceived notions. Take “Last Vegas,” for example. The ubiquitous preview features Kevin Kline, Morgan Freeman, Robert De Niro and Michael Douglas partying in Sin City, which makes the movie look like a weary retread of “The Hangover,” except with Lipitor jokes. (What’s next, Diane Keaton and Goldie Hawn starring in a baby boomer version of “Bridesmaids”?)
But whoever is in charge of trailers for this comedy might want to try a different career path. “Last Vegas” may not deliver potent originality, but it’s much funnier than that first one-minute glimpse implies.
The actors play the self-designated Flatbush Four, a quartet of kids who grew up in Brooklyn and stayed in touch over six decades even as their fates diverged. Sam (Kline) lives with his wife and new knee in Florida amid moribund neighbors; Archie (Freeman), having recently suffered a stroke, resides under the careful supervision of his patronizing son; widower Paddy (De Niro) remains rooted to an easy chair, wearing a bathrobe and surrounded by a phalanx of photos of his late wife. And then there’s Billy (Douglas). With his taut orange face, he looks the part of a man with beachfront property in Malibu and a 31-year-old fiancee. His impending marriage is the impetus for the wild vacation.
Director Jon Turteltaub knows his way around a crowd-pleaser (he did “Cool Runnings” and “National Treasure”), and Dan Fogelman (“Crazy, Stupid, Love”) contributes a decent script. But it’s the actors, plus an exuberant Mary Steenburgen as quick-witted lounge singer Diana, who make the movie more than a middling copycat. Kline, Freeman, De Niro and Douglas demonstrate both the easy chemistry and excitable energy of old friends reconvening after years apart, and they all genuinely seem to be having fun. Kline is especially memorable, and his comedic abilities have hardly diminished in the years since “A Fish Called Wanda.” When he can’t figure out to how to pop the trunk or unlock the doors of his rental car, he turns what could have been a trite joke into big laughs.
Not everything works so seamlessly. Billy’s proposal to his fiancee — during a eulogy — is a scene that practically begs for an eye roll. At that moment, the prophecy of the movie’s trailer feels all too real. But when Sam and Archie hear about the proposal and give the same incredulous head shake that audience members did moments earlier, the gesture somehow makes the bizarre spectacle more palatable. The filmmakers seem to acknowledge their own ridiculousness.
Nevertheless, seeing 60- and 70-somethings ogle 20-year-old women and judge a bikini contest is a little hard to take. But this is broad comedy, after all. The movie aims to do little more than serve up laughter. Even the sentimental moments are couched with punch lines. All in all, “Last Vegas” is a brisk and goofy adventure that manages to mine fanny packs and big white tennies for more laughter than it should. Maybe baby boomer bridesmaids wouldn’t be so bad.
★ ★ ½
PG-13. At area theaters. Contains sexual content and language. 104 minutes.