Picture The Hangover mashed up with Driving Miss Daisy, and you’ll have a good idea of what this film’s about. At face value there isn’t much available for entertainment value, but then again, its Vegas, which always manages to stir something up, albeit this time in slower motion. It’s almost the unapologetic less eclectic American answer to 2012’s ‘Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ – in that ‘rage against the dying of the light’ way.
Four old childhood friends, emphasis on old, travel to Las Vegas for a bachelor party – yes one of them is getting married, and to a much younger woman (– any guesses for who’s playing that role?). With two of the friends, Archie and Sam (played by Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline respectively) keen on one last hoorah or soiree, they’re tasked with simply having to persuade their long-time warring buddies to get along. Paddy (Robert De Niro) is depressed and understandably still mourning his wife’s death, but he begrudges his one-time best friend Billy (Michael Douglas) who never showed up for the funeral, not to mention his moral loathing at Billy’s lifestyle and impending wedding.
I suppose those who want a rather laid back version of The Hangover, minus much of the foul language. It is a re-treaded story (what isn’t these days?) but it really is geared for a more mature audience as it tackles aging and death pretty much head-on, though it does present some interesting issues for thought for the younger crowd.
Truth be told I wasn’t expecting much from this film, ever since seeing a set image of the four protagonists standing around laughing at some inside joke. It looks a bit tired, but that’s kind of an added plot device as everything is aged – even the city – Vegas is no spring chicken you know.
Suffice is to say I enjoyed it more than I anticipated, mostly because they didn’t shy away from tackling the real issues like materialism, mortality and morality. Pretty heavy stuff for a comedy, but perhaps it’s what the genre needs every now and then, just to ground it. The performances of the cast are of course key to its success – their chemistry and mischief just manage to keep things entertaining (additionally with a notable, more subdued, performance from Mary Steenburgen, playing the eye candy for the guys, and you’ll find no sarcasm here). Kline and Freeman are banked on more for the comic relief whilst De Niro and Douglas bring in the unsteady gravitas. It must be said that Michael Douglas’ mini comeback has been intriguing – this performance running off the fading momentum of his virtuoso display in ‘Behind the Candelabra’, even if it’s mostly for show, there’s enough heart there to make his stereotypical character endearing.
Ultimately it’s not a film with many perceptible flaws – since snappy pacing and hence a slightly shorter running time was out of the question – but it did mildly surprise me. That being said, with its decent writing, loads of prescription medication, swift direction from Jon Turteltaub and a strong cast; it manages to sail along more than just float.