Last Vegas should have stayed in Vegas

De Niro et al slum for a paycheck.

The opening sepia-toned flashback in Last Vegas is a harbinger of the dull-witted things to come. Just as that pandering device has been used in schmaltzy comedies like Back to School and Analyze This, here it is again, and it's no more useful and no less annoying. The worst part of this prologue, which introduces four 10-year-olds playing their adult counterparts, is either its endorsement of stealing or the kid who keeps making the "De Niro face."

Enter the present, and the Flatbush Four (as they call themselves) are still best buds. We know this because they call each other “asshole” and “prick” like it’s a secret handshake. We've seen them go from children to 70-year-old men in the time it takes a title card to appear on the screen. The surliest of the bunch is Paddy (Robert De Niro), who’s been a recluse since his wife passed away, and harbors a grudge against the group's leader, the effusively cheerful and well-off Billy (Michael Douglas).

Despite Paddy's initial reluctance, the quartet — including Archie (Morgan Freeman) and Sam (Kevin Kline) — reunites in Vegas for a bachelor party to celebrate Billy's upcoming nuptials. Billy, whose tanned, creased face and dyed hair earn him considerable ribbing from his compatriots, is set to marry a woman who — in terms of age, not biology — could conceivably be his granddaughter. Despite being a man of some wealth, Billy thinks the classy thing to do is wed his bride-to-be in a Vegas chapel.

In Last Vegas, being old is funny because it means your children have to dote on you like you're a helpless child and because you have to suffer through the company of even older people who are vainly fighting their continuing decrepitude.

It also means a lot of pills: a pill to keep you from getting a heart attack; another that helps you get it up. And in Sam’s case, it means having a wife who knows her husband hasn't been happy of late, and so gives him permission to dip his wick elsewhere.

The various degrees of unhappiness are there just so the movie can say that Vegas, baby, is the cure-all for your existential malaise. When Last Vegas isn't hitting us with product placement, it's showing off its namesake as a bombardment of shiny things, VIP treatment, and sexy hookups.

But apparently the city won't make you any smarter. The guys can’t figure out how to open the curtains in their suite, and so we're meant to laugh when they discover the control is on a wall panel. That's not funny; it's cruel and condescending. Just as it’s insulting when Paddy thinks Archie has just gambled away his savings on blackjack, when he’s actually cleaned up a small fortune. How do you make that kind of mistake and function as an adult?

The movie is most disgraceful for its treatment of women, who are little more than accessories meant to build up the self-esteem of men, particularly these old men. Mary Steenburgen gets in one good line about not being something that can be gifted by another man, but then she’s reduced to a prize by the movie’s end.

You’d like think the filmmakers responsible for this underachievement would have at least tried to do something different, maybe even good. Because if you’re going to assemble this kind of talent in front of the screen, it would be nice to have something worthy of their abilities. Watching LMFAO's Redfoo shove his crotch in De Niro's face during a bikini contest isn't it.

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