Films tend to reflect societal values of the time in which they were released, which is the problem inherent in director Jon Turteltaub’s latest project, “Last Vegas.” If this is a reflection of society’s standards, then we need to reevaluate what we consider morally acceptable.
Billy (Michael Douglas), Paddy (Robert De Niro), Archie (Morgan Freeman), and Sam (Kevin Kline) have been causing trouble together for 60 years. Their old age, however, has kept them apart, as they succumb to the stereotypical “grandpa” stage of life. Everyone, that is, except for Billy, who is determined to stay young by spray-tanning, partying, and eloping to Vegas to marry a woman half his age. When his best friends learn of the engagement, they meet Billy in Sin City to throw him the bachelor party of a lifetime.
And that’s basically the entire plot.
For 105 minutes, Turtletaub spares no expense in letting his four old-timers live the ultimate Vegas experience. Between the larger-than-life complementary hotel suite, endless bottles of booze, and dozens of scantily clad women conveniently attracted to older men, the stars are waited on hand and foot. It’s up for debate whether screenwriter Dan Fogelman hoped to inspire jealousy of the trip or just demonstrate how to throw a raunchy party.
Any time Fogelman tries to add conflict to the storyline, it’s too dramatic for the movie’s otherwise happy-go-lucky tone. Paddy’s disputes with Billy – who did not attend Paddy’s late wife’s funeral – soon spiral out of control, and Paddy begins to doubt his entire marriage. It’s surprisingly heart-wrenching, but ultimately unbefitting a movie about the Vegas party scene.
One would hope that the first collaboration between these four Oscar winners would result in some stellar performances. Unfortunately, the only result is four performances grounded in teenage immaturity that should not be expected from such veteran actors. Even their characters’ names (Paddy, Billy, etc.) complement their childishness. Granted, there are a few funny moments and the characters are somewhat entertaining, but there is simply no reason to respect their lifestyles and therefore empathize with them in any meaningful way.
These lifestyles even go so far as to challenge the notion that elders are meant to be role models for younger generations. By objectifying every woman they meet, lying to their families, and openly (and excitedly) cheating on their wives, they glorify behaviors that society (in theory) should criticize. No one in the film questions their behavior, and Turteltaub apparently expects the same from viewers.
This presumption alone should make us rethink American cultural values, which have desensitized us to the point of accepting outrageous decadence, such as Billy’s proposal to his fiancée at a funeral and his sudden interest in other women just days before the wedding.
The trip ultimately strengthens their friendships—and even verges on sentimentality—but that can’t make up for the prior 75 minutes of objectification and immaturity. It can’t make up for the questionable morals of the society we live in, either.
* ½ out of five