If you’re a director and get a cast that includes Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Michael Douglas, and Kevin Kline – you’ve got a winning hand. Four-of-a-kind. It’ll assure you a full house and big weekend box office numbers, as people head straight to the theatres. The ace-in-the-hole is the always adorable Mary Steenburgen.
Director Jon Turtletaub cashes in, and surprisingly doesn’t insult our intelligence (too much) with it trying to be a Hangover meets Cocoon story. This is the movie that the horrible Bucket List could’ve been.
Screenwriter Dan Fogelman, who did the fun Crazy Stupid Love, gave us a story about guys that first met as kids and became the “Flatbush Four.” They grew up in the same New York town and got into their share of trouble, but remained friends even as they all went their separate ways.
They decide to meet up in Las Vegas for Billy’s wedding. Just like in real life, Michael Douglas as Billy, is marrying somebody much younger. De Niro is the only one reluctant to go, and the movie eventually reveals why. Although, it’s not that you couldn’t have seen that coming down Las Vegas Boulevard. The movie has many predictable circumstances and jokes (Viagra, strippers, not knowing contemporary rappers).
Steenburgen is the lounge singer that seems to bring De Niro out of his sadness. His wife died the previous year.
Steenburgen has a great singing voice, and even wrote one of the songs she performed. Yet, seeing her might even make you angrier that Douglas has to marry a 32-year-old. It seems there are enough age-appropriate women for rich men, but I digress.
It was refreshing that with each character having a different dilemma, they don’t overplay them. Kline is in a bit of a rut with his wife, and she drops him off at the airport with a free pass (and a condom). Freeman isn’t in the best of health, and recently had a stroke. This has his family overly concerned with him and his whereabouts.
The material may have been average in the hands of other actors, but watching Freeman talk while he’s drunk (after Red Bulls and vodka), and the hangover with them in a round bed that’s spinning – you have a smile on your face the entire time you’re watching this.
I was surprised that with such a well-known cast, they don’t bring a lot of previous movie baggage with them. The only movies that popped into my mind were The Bucket List (for obvious reasons), and when Douglas was in his huge beach house making a deal on his cell phone – I started reminiscing about the huge cell phone he had on the beach in Wall Street. Oh, there’s also a gag with De Niro looking in a mirror and throwing punches. That’s obviously a play on Raging Bull.
It was also a pleasant surprise to see Romany Malco (the bald guy from 40-Year-Old Virgin). His characters are always upbeat and funny, and he does the job here. It’s a shame the trailers for this movie gave away both the set-up and punchline to a joke involving 50 Cent.
The score was yet another one done by Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh. He’s giving Oingo Boingo’s Danny Elfman a run for his money.
A few might be turned off by the obvious “product placement” of the Aria Hotel and Casino, but just as it didn’t bother me the way Google was used in The Interns, I had no problem with the Aria here.
The movie did play it a little safe, and was more interested in winning the smaller pots instead of being riskier, edgier, and winning the big comedy jackpot.
It’s a pleasant enough night at the movies, and gets 3 stars out of 5.