“Last Vegas”
When you’re sixty-something, the old-age jokes take on special meaning. But also, when you’re sixty-something, you appreciate a comedy that doesn’t just make fun of aging Baby Boomers, but actually celebrates the arrival of that harrowing Age of Steady Decline.
These four guys all grew up in Flatbush, in Brooklyn , boys in the 1950’s who were best friends and inseparable, along with the one girl who later became a wrangle between two of them.
Paddy (Robert DeNiro) is the one who wound up with the playful Sofie, and they spent a happy lifetime together, but she’s been dead a year now. Paddy just hangs around the apartment in his bathrobe, nothing better to do than bark at his well-meaning young neighbor down the hall, who brings him soup and wants to introduce him to her grandmother.
Archie (Morgan Freeman), having already suffered a mild stroke, now lives with his grown son and his family, but is enduring the encroaching indignity of being treated like some intractable fusion of invalid and doddering simpleton.
Sam (Kevin Kline), the only one still married, is comfortably retired with his beloved wife of 40 years, but is afraid to admit that he’s become just a little bored with their everyday routine of doing not much of anything.
As for Billy (Michael Douglas), well, he’s the super-successful California hotshot who dyes his longish hair, wears a fake tan and designer clothes, keeps himself slim and trim, and is engaged to someone young enough to be his daughter. Billy is the one who calls everyone else to come to his wedding in Las Vegas , and how about a traditional bachelor party the night before?
Archie and Sam are absolutely delighted, but it takes some convincing for Paddy to go, because he’s still mad at Billy for not making Sofie’s funeral. Billy’s sorry, but not for the reason Paddy thinks: Billy actually had been in love with Sofie, but encouraged her to go with Paddy instead of him, thinking at the time that he wasn’t ready to settle down yet. Now he’s looking back on a life of calculated dissipation and regretting turning away the one woman he ever truly loved. And that includes the nice young lady who’s now his fiancée, who’s kind and sweet and suitably accommodating to their generational difference, but he just doesn’t love her.
All that sounds heavier than it plays in the movie. We’re far too busy cracking jokes about aging, and some of the bits are genuinely funny. But this is a buddy movie at its heart, that’s about the importance of lifelong friendships; especially for those of us who are now old enough to appreciate how there’s no friend like an old friend.
Yes, they throw a wild bachelor party, with plenty of beautiful young bodies writhing to a pulsating disco beat, but our old guys seem curiously detached from all that. They are more interested in flirting shamelessly with the aging lounge singer, Diana (Mary Steenburgen), who’s quickly become their new Sofie.
It’s cute and harmless fun; it’s a mild PG-13, but most teenagers won’t understand the humor, anyway. If you’re “of a certain age,” don’t go with your kids or grandkids, go with your contemporaries. You’ll enjoy chuckling at yourselves together.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister, St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, Irving , Texas