x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Morgan Freeman finds freedom for comedy in Last Vegas

Four oldsters hit Sin City in Last Vegas, a geriatric version of The Hangover that delivers big laughs.

From left, Morgan Freeman, Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro and Kevin Kline are starring in Last Vegas. (RNewsFoto / CBS Films
From left, Morgan Freeman, Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro and Kevin Kline are starring in Last Vegas. (RNewsFoto / CBS Films

The Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman has a conundrum at 76 years of age: he gets plenty of job offers, but the roles tend to be serious and they only beget more serious roles.

“I would do anything that got me out of gravitas,” said the actor, who has played a prison inmate in 1994’s The Shawshank Redemption and Nelson Mandela in 2009’s Invictus over a prolific career.

So when the script for the senior buddy comedy Last Vegas, rolled his way, Freeman snapped it up. And so did three more of Hollywood’s top actors – Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas and Kevin Kline – in what turned out to be an embarrassment of casting riches for a film of somewhat modest means. It opens in UAE cinemas tomorrow.

Incredibly, considering their long and varied careers, the four had never worked together and had barely socialised.

“Between professional screenings and this or that, we know each other and say hi, but we didn’t have the intimacy that you are witnessing,” Douglas said, joking alongside his three co-stars while promoting the film at a Las Vegas casino.

The four said they were drawn to the film by the prospect of working with each other and by the “material” – a script that shakes off the senior cobwebs.

Douglas, 69, is Billy, a hotshot Malibu lawyer about to marry a much younger woman. De Niro, 70, plays Paddy, who holes himself up in his Brooklyn house after his wife’s death. Freeman is Archie, who has suffered a stroke and chafes under his overprotective son’s care. Kline, 66, is Sam, a bored Florida retiree who gets permission and a dose of Viagra from his wife to have a fling in Vegas.

Brought together for Billy’s stag party, they stop talking about prostate and heart problems and turn to having fun and winning over a Las Vegas crowd skewed toward youth.

They also work out their issues, including old rivalries dating back to their days as boyhood friends from Brooklyn.

It brings to mind another recent Sin City buddy film, The Hangover, although this version is for the pension-collecting, sensible shoes-toting, geriatric set.

For the director Jon Turteltaub, the four actors’ wealth of dramatic experience was a key to making the comedy work.

“The balance of drama and comedy and emotion and humour is everything because they justify the other’s existence,” he said.

“That’s what this cast gives you, not just that they are funny, but you believe in the dramatic histories they have.”

The movie from CBS Films, a unit of CBS Corp, has received mixed reviews, although many critics expect it will be crowd-pleaser like many of the recent raunchy friendship comedies.

Variety called it “as creaky as an arthritic hip”, while The Hollywood Reporter said the “royal flush of actors delivers a winning hand”.

The film also features the Oscar-winning actress Mary Steenburgen, who plays the late-in-life lounge singer Diana and is the object of desire of both Billy and Paddy. She says that being in their 60s and 70s made for some unique chemistry on set.

“It is very different if we had all been together when we were much younger,” said Steenburgen, 60. “We weren’t thinking about our next job, or how is this is going to affect my career. We were just enjoying the moment.”

Steenburgen said De Niro was “incredibly dear and touching”, Douglas “was so encouraging about doing a great job” and Kline was “our beautiful, magical, theatrical clown”. And the elder statesman, Freeman?

“You saw anyone who walked past him go weak in the knees, of any age,” she said. “Morgan is definitely the chick magnet of the bunch.”

* Reuters

artslife@thenational.ae