It’s being positioned as “The Hangover” for the stooped over.
A raucous “Cocoon” in a casino.
But “Last Vegas” isn’t that movie.
The comedy about boyhood friends in various stages of decline who are rejuvenated after a life-affirming weekend on the Strip is closer to “The Best Exotic Aria Hotel.”
Widower Paddy (Robert De Niro) rarely leaves the comfort of his Brooklyn apartment, his bathrobe or his Crocs. Sam (Kevin Kline) is married but miserable in Florida, mired in a life of water aerobics classes and afternoon dinner parties. Archie (Morgan Freeman) is divorced, living with his overly protective son (Michael Ealy) in New Jersey and left to watch “this ‘Housewives’ thing” after suffering a stroke.
Then there’s lifelong bachelor Billy (Michael Douglas), with his Malibu beach house and his girlfriend (Bre Blair) who’s “almost 32.”
When Billy accidentally proposes while delivering the eulogy at his mentor’s funeral, the self-proclaimed Flatbush Four, best friends for six decades, reunite to give Billy the (grand)mother of all bachelor parties.
Directed by Jon Turteltaub (the “National Treasure” movies) from a script by Dan Fogelman (revisiting Vegas after last year’s “The Guilt Trip”), “Last Vegas” hits all the easy targets you’d expect from a senior-driven comedy. Sagging breasts. Hemorrhoids. The first Viagra reference arrives not even 15 minutes in.
Still more too-obvious putdowns come from their snobby Aria VIP host (Romany Malco) and an obnoxious frat boy (Jerry Ferrara). But because the Las Vegas of “Last Vegas” is a magical place, the Flatbush Four eventually win over everyone they encounter.
Especially Diana (Mary Steenburgen), the tax attorney turned Binion’s lounge singer who serves as the movie’s love interest and yet another source of conflict between Billy and Paddy, who haven’t spoken in a year since the death of the woman they both loved.
Diana is responsible for stirring up feelings that lead to some of the movie’s most honest and genuine conversations involving what it means to confront your own mortality. “My brain cannot conceive how old this body is,” Billy laments in a particularly raw moment.
Scenes like those let “Last Vegas” get away with some of its sillier bits, such as when Sam takes off one of his two pairs of glasses in an attempt to look younger and ends up hitting on a drag Madonna impersonator (Roger Bart), or when the gang somehow finds themselves judging a bikini contest at the Aria pool.
If you’re noticing a lot of Aria references, get ready for many, many, many more. For long stretches, “Last Vegas” borders on an infomercial for the resort as the stars marvel at their suite, check out the wedding chapel, hit the blackjack tables, revisit the pool and even give the buffet a shoutout.
Characters from “Zarkana,” the resident Cirque show, wander the casino floor and appear prominently at Billy’s bachelor party. There’s even a “Zarkana”-branded taxi and, in the background of a scene at the airport, an Aria shuttle where no shuttle would ever be.
Before long, it all starts to feel as organic as that time in the ’90s when the cast of every family sitcom had a grand old time at a Disney theme park.
But, then, maybe that’s appropriate since “Last Vegas” seems designed from the ground up to let its cast enjoy themselves and each other. There’s a sense of genuine glee when the four Oscar winners — five counting Steenburgen — really cut loose. It’s the most fun Freeman has had on camera in quite a while. And Kline is so delightful, you’ll wish he’d worked more over the past decade or so.
“Last Vegas” is a mixed bag. With the exception of Kline’s Sam, whose wife (Joanna Gleason) has given him a free pass to be with other women over the weekend, you rarely see the characters behind the icons playing them.
To its credit, though, the genial comedy isn’t nearly as embarrassing for everyone involved as the commercials would lead you to believe.
And there’s something undeniably moving about seeing the characters, even as thinly developed as they are, relive their glory years and just plain live for a change.
Christopher Lawrence reviews movies for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Contact him at clawrence@ reviewjournal.com.