It’s a dumbfounding irony that the fiction of the “entitled, selfish millennial” was invented by Baby Boomers. The generation that created Saturday Night Live and National Lampoon grew up to be weirdly deaf to irony and probably won’t even get what a damning metaphor Last Vegas accidentally turns out to be. More on that below.
A new iteration of the dude-bro Dionysian comedy, the film is a reverse Mentos commercial in which the clever old people have to outwit the entitled, selfish young people in order to get into the nightclub or yank a casino’s penthouse suite away from a formerly respectable hip-hop artist now slumming in lazy, mid-budget comedies.
Presumably, the cast’s enthusiasm to work together was greater than their enthusiasm for the script, a sitcom-level tissue of broad jokes, flat gags and lazy coincidences. But what the film has in spades is charm, its four co-stars leveraging obvious mutual admiration and roughly 160 man-years of comic experience for some genuine onscreen chemistry. Anyone would want to hang out with these guys.
It’s a get-the-band-back-together plot featuring a cast that never actually teamed up in their prime. When 70-year-old bachelor Billy (Michael Douglas) proposes to his much-younger girlfriend—at a funeral, while delivering the eulogy—his three childhood friends insist on throwing him the same Las Vegas bachelor party he’d thrown in their honor decades before.
Sam (Kevin Kline), who hasn’t boned his wife in a decade, gets her tacit permission to cheat during the long weekend. Paddy (Robert De Niro) is in extended mourning for his deceased wife. And Archie (Morgan Freeman, who is the greatest), a twice-divorced stroke survivor in fear of recurrence, has consigned himself to a hermetic life in his overprotective son’s home. The film’s hidden asset is the luminous Mary Steenburgen, funny and gorgeous as an empty-nest mom turned lounge chanteuse who beguiles the dudes with age-appropriate flirting and arch humor.
The stair-lift of a script safely transports the men past an array of inconsequential obstacles scattered by screenwriter Dan Fogelman in lieu of, oh, basic goddamn storytelling. The characters are totally passive—money, drinks, women and unexpected acclaim shower down on these elder-bros like Werther’s Originals from God’s own cardigan pocket, completely unearned by the characters or the screenplay.
It’s an uncomfortable, accidental metaphor for the whole Baby Boom generation, squirted frictionless through life into Modern Maturity with a wealth of hair-replacement techniques and the last pensions ever offered by the economy they stripped for parts, everything easy-peasy-prostate-squeezy.
But, look: Last Vegas, cuddly and forgettable, doesn’t have a mean bone in its body. Of course Sam declines to cheat on his wife with a beautiful, unhappy millennial. And of course Billy reconsiders marrying his age-inappropriate fiancee. Irony-deaf members of the Big Chill cohort, despite dismantling the social safety net, inventing credit-default swaps and unpaid internships, and consigning even their own college-educated children to service-sector survival, still prefer to think of themselves as way too responsible ever to fuck younger generations.