Oscar-winning actors are a precious commodity, usually doled out no more than one or two per movie. But in this AARP-version of “The Hangover” crossed with “Ferris Bueller,” there are five, and the greatest pleasure of this film is in watching the evident pleasure they take in each other. They appreciate each other, they trust each other, and they challenge each other. Morgan Freeman, Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, and Kevin Kline play the “Flatbush Four,” lifelong friends who grew up together in Brooklyn, the kind who cheerfully call each other unprintable insults but who are always there for each other. Remember the end of “Stand By Me.” when Richard Dreyfuss says, ” I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?” These are those guys, 58 years, a few spouses, some medical issues and a grudge later.
Billy (Douglas), with a fake tan, a hair color that does not occur in nature, and a girlfriend a third of his age, impulsively proposes in the middle of a eulogy. So, it is time to get the gang back together for a blow-out of a bachelor party in Las Vegas. There’s Sam (Kline), marooned in retireeland, Florida, and horrified by water aerobics and dinner at 4:30, and, generally, being old. Archie (Freeman) is living with his worried son (Michael Ealy), who smothers him with care and caution because he is recovering from a stroke. And Paddy (De Niro) sits in his robe all day, surrounded by photographs of his late wife. Sam and Archie are immediately on board with the idea of a wild weekend, especially after Sam’s wife presents him with a condom, a tablet of Viagra, and a reminder that “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” They persuade Paddy to come by not telling him the purpose of the trip. Paddy is still hurt and angry at Billy for a betrayal that of course will be revealed, though by that time it hardly matters.
The Flatbush Four hear a nightclub singer named Diana (Oscar-winner number five, Mary Steenburgen, bringing warmth and wit to the movie) and they immediately like her very much, especially Paddy and Billy. As the big night approaches, they are determined to party like it’s 1945. And each one will learn something or decide something that will change his life when he gets home.
Listen, the plot developments are older than the stars. Fun to see old guys live it up in nasty, racy Vegas! Time to settle old scores! The jokes are even older than that. But these old pros get such an evident kick out of each other that they are able to find some honesty in what could otherwise feel synthetic. And the chemistry between them cannot be faked. We know these guys. We know their faces and have watched them get older for many years. Seeing them enjoy each other’s company is great company for us to be in.
Parents should know that this movie was originally rated R and then changed to PG-13 on appeal. There is some strong and crude language (one f-word), a lot of drinking, sexual references and non-explicit situations, and girls in very skimpy clothes and bathing suits.
Family discussion: Who changes the most? How did the four men end up so unsatisfied with their lives?
If you like this, try: the other comedy films by these actors including “Analyze This,” “A Fish Named Wanda,” “Bruce Almighty,” “Melvin and Howard,” and “Wonder Boys”