By Steve Persall
Times Movie Critic
Hard to believe that four actors as storied and honored as the stars of Last Vegas never shared a screen before now. Imagine the movie that Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline could've made together in younger, hungrier times.
Now hold that thought because Last Vegas isn't that movie. This foursome is just playing through on the way to the bank, swinging easy and making good contact with a Wiffle Ball script. Nostalgia counts a lot and needs to, with this sitcom-level material and Jon Turteltaub's uninspired direction.
That Last Vegas remains somewhat fun throughout is a testament to its legends casting, five Academy Award winners including Mary Steenburgen, who's the sunniest, most charming thing about the movie. All they're asked to do is look their ages without acting them. These actors even make Viagra gags tolerable, a considerable measure of their talent.
We meet these rascals when they were Flatbush kids, 58 years ago. In brisk fashion their personalities and a running gag about stolen scotch are established: smooth talking Billy, hothead Paddy, skittish Sam and still-water Archie. Fifty-eight years later, they're spread across the country, still in touch and settled into a screenwriter's idea of old age possibilities.
Paddy (De Niro) lives in seclusion after his wife's death. Sam (Kline) lives in Naples in retirement village hell, and Archie (Freeman) is living with his helicopter son (Michael Ealy). Only Billy still has it going on, wealthy for no described reason, living in Malibu with a woman under half his age. Billy's slip of the tongue turns his eulogy for a friend into a marriage proposal, and a bachelor party with the Flatbush Four in Las Vegas seems in order.
Three are game but Paddy's a holdout initially, holding a grudge against Billy for a reason that's easy to figure out but the movie thinks we can't. The fun is regularly interrupted by Paddy's grumping about Billy's past offense, and a present one building over Diana (Steenburgen), a perky lounge singer.
Last Vegas got its loudest laughs at Monday's screening when the acting gods stooped to pander: judging a poolside bikini contest (where De Niro suffers an LMFAO indignity), Kline's sputtering attempts to cash in a fidelity hall pass from his wife (watch those drag queens!), or Freeman doing a Don Ameche on the dance floor. In Hollywood, watching seniors behave like frat rats is the only thing about them that never gets old.
Steve Persall can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall on Twitter.