By Bill Wine
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – They’re not cool enough to be the Rat Pack or young enough to be the Brat Pack. They’re more like the Old Hat Pack.
They’re the collective protagonist of Last Vegas, a sexagenarian variation of The Hangover by way of Grumpy Old Men that makes up for in wisdom and charisma what it lacks in energy and originality.
Senior citizens Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro , Morgan Freeman, and Kevin Kline are Billy, Paddy, Archie, and Sam, respectively, boyhood friends who grew up in Brooklyn and called themselves the ‘Flatbush Four.’
They descend on Sin City for a bachelor party to celebrate the upcoming marriage of Douglas’s Billy, the only one of the four to have remained single, to a woman half his age.
There they meet a lounge singer, Diana, played by Mary Steenburgen, who catches at least four of their eight eyes.
Director Jon Turteltaub (National Treasure, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, While You Were Sleeping, Phenomenon) trusts his primary cast to hold the screen commandingly but congenially even when their dialogue and behavior is questionable or uneven. And they do.
The screenplay by Dan Fogelman is ultimately about aging and abiding friendship as well as the cocktail of nostalgia and regret that provides a chaser for the aging process.
You could look at this sexagenarian comedy as involving five underemployed Oscar winners more or less slumming — or at least coasting. Or you could see it as the rounding up of five agreeable and accomplished screen personas offering the undemanding pleasure of their company in one viewer-friendly package.
The rapport among the five principals, no two of whom have ever crossed on-screen paths before, amazingly enough, is strong enough, their timing and delivery sharp enough to make us forgive, forget, or ignore the script’s wince-worthy weak spots, which occur in a few scenes in which the actors look as uncomfortable as we feel watching them. But these are the exception, not the rule.
So we’ll age 2-1/2 stars out of 4 for the casually engaging ensemble comedy, Last Vegas. No cast member’s Oscar nomination total is about to change, but they all get credit for elevating the movie’s game by tucking away their credentials.