With a cast of likable old pros and the oleaginous Michael Douglas, "Last Vegas" seems a pretty depressing title for a film that tries so hard to be jovial. What's more depressing is what the movie portends: More and more "mature" stars traveling in packs, more boomer comedies making randy fun of getting old, more maudlin resolutions of meaningless conflicts. In a word, more: Considering some of our favorite titles of the past few years ("Final Destination 5," "The Last Exorcism Part II"), we can't even find comfort in the thought that this "Vegas" might be the last. At best it's "Next to Last Vegas."
Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline and Douglas star as boyhood friends entering their dotage (if you wonder why Kline seems so much younger, it's because, at 66, he is; Freeman is 76). And as directed by Jon Turteltaub ("National Treasure"), the movie certainly plucks the old heart strings -- or mauls them, depending on your degree of resistance.
Paddy (De Niro), Billy (Douglas), Archie (Freeman) and Sam (Kline) grew up in Flatbush, Billy and Paddy falling in love with the same girl, Paddy marrying her and Billy missing her funeral, which Paddy can't forgive. When Sam and Archie decide that Billy's impending marriage -- to a woman less than half his age, of course -- demands a bachelor party in Vegas, they have to trick Paddy into going. But he does, bringing his grudge along, which provides endless opportunity for emotions and catharsis.
If the viewer can get by that the film is a big, fat silicon-enhanced ad for Las Vegas, he or she will find a fine comedic performance by Kline, whose Sam has been given permission by his wife (Joanna Gleason) to have a fling and is so gleefully willing to exercise the option it almost becomes its own movie. Freeman is warm and appealing; De Niro curmudgeonly, and Mary Steenburgen, as a lounge singer who rekindles the rivalry between Paddy and Billy, is a breath of fresh air -- which in this overheated "Vegas" is welcome indeed.
PLOT Four old birds from Flatbush reflock in the city of forced fun.
RATING PG-13 (sexual content and language)
CAST Robert De Niro, Kevin Kline, Morgan Freeman, Michael Douglas, Mary Steenburgen.
BOTTOM LINE Alternately trashy and teary, marginally funny, occasionally cringe-inducing.