I’ll admit that the idea at the centre of this isn’t exactly unfamiliar but I certainly wouldn’t call it unoriginal. Basically, doing the movie maths, this is Stand By Me (minus the body) meets The Hangover plus old people (minus Mr Chow and marrying a hooker).
Laughs? Plenty, often and big. Tender moments? A fair few done nicely and the right side of twee. Cliches and sterotypes? Yes, but they work and are knowing but not too knowing.
Wealthy Douglas is the bachelor of the piece who is planning to marry his considerably younger girlfriend in Vegas. Naturally, he wants his best and oldest friends (age and duration both apply) to be there and celebrate with a crazy boys night on the town ahead of the big day. The one problem is that although Freeman and Kline’s characters are up for it, De Niro’s isn’t as he’s not forgiven Douglas’ character for not coming to his wife’s funeral years earlier. When the boys hit town, with a reluctant De Niro hoodwinked into coming along for the ride, they instantly meet Steenburgen's lounge singer Diana and Bart's Maurice - both add real colour and texture to the film (to say more would be to spoil some great moments) rather than it being overcrowded.
Admittedly, and also sadly, this isn’t going to have the same appeal or impact of The Hangover as audiences have moved on from that franchise and it’s had too many bad imitations already. Also, Kline, Douglas and De Niro aren’t exactly the box office dynamite they were a few years ago, all having had more than their fair share of career bumps and semi-hiatus’ - so that’ll make it a much harder to get bums on seats for the younger audience. That said, they are all an absolute joy here and it’s great to see De Niro doing a big role where we get to see his dramatic and comedic sides together, not at the expense of either, and also giving a great performance - he has churned out more than his fair share of shit in the last decade so deserves a break.
Not the success it deserved to be at the US box office and critics there were, I feel, too unkind and cynical towards it, I believe this is well worth your time and money - a gentle but decent romantic comedy that works better then perhaps it should whether you’re 16 or 60. I’d like to see a sequel although I think that’s unlikely but not entirely impossible. Last Vegas is just big fun, very funny and never anything less than hugely enjoyable and, at 105 minutes, certainly doesn’t overstay it’s welcome. The parts that feel derivative or familiar far from breed contempt, they actually breed broad smiles and belly laughs and for that, the strengths more than make up for the weaknesses. Viva Last Vegas!