The high point of Last Vegas is also arguably the low point of Robert De Niro’s career. Early in the film, Paddy (De Niro) and his retirement-age buddies—Archie (Morgan Freeman), Billy (Michael Douglas), and Sam (Kevin Kline)—bribe their way into judging a poolside bikini contest that is being emceed by LMFAO member RedFoo. As “Party Rock Anthem” blares in the background, RedFoo rips off his pants and leaps onto Paddy’s deck chair, rhythmically thrusting his Speedo’d crotch into the older man’s face. De Niro, the lion of American acting, reacts with the bemused half-grimace, half-smile of a man whose infant grandson just peed in his lap.
Last Vegas spends much of its running time skirting bad taste, but this is the only moment when it goes all-out. Though director Jon Turteltaub (National Treasure, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice) has a knack for making diverting effects-driven camp, he sputters here. Reality-bending silliness—or even a good gross-out joke or two—would be preferable to the stale, corny jokes this movie tries to pass off as comedy.
Sam takes off his glasses and accidentally tries to pick up a drag performer at a bar. Archie busts some disco moves on the dance floor, which is supposed to be funny because Freeman is an old person. A young casino guest is tricked into believing the four friends are East Coast mobsters, which is supposed to be funny because De Niro is in the movie. There is a cameo from 50 Cent, which qualifies as a joke because the concept of 50 Cent is inherently funny.
Gaps between “jokes” are filled with schmaltz. Paddy, Sam, and Archie have come to Las Vegas to celebrate Billy’s marriage to a woman roughly half his age. Each character is portioned out a subplot and a lesson: Archie has recently suffered a mild stroke, and is keeping the trip a secret from his overprotective son; Sam’s wife has given him permission to cheat on her while he’s in Vegas; Paddy is angry at Billy for not attending his wife’s funeral; Billy starts falling for a lounge singer his own age (Mary Steenburgen) and having doubts about his impending marriage. Steenburgen is appropriately alluring in the role, and wasting her performance on a second-rate love triangle in a third-rate geezer comedy is downright criminal.