So, it’s been awhile. I’ve had other writing projects. But this movie, for want of a better word, pissed me off enough to generate a blog post.
Billy (Michael Douglas) is in his late sixties, and engaged to a woman less than half his age. He calls his childhood buddies Archie (Morgan Freeman) and Sam (Kevin Kline) to announce the news. They insist on throwing a bachelor party in Las Vegas, and trick the fourth member of the Flatbush Four, Paddy (Robert De Niro) into attending. They have to, because Paddy is pissed at Billy and won’t come otherwise. They get to Vegas, and an adventure ensues.
It’s ageist, misogynistic, lazy, and a little psychotic. I wanted to like it but it kept pissing me off.
I like Dan Fogelman. I enjoyed Bolt, Tangled, Crazy Stupid Love, Galavant, and even Fred Claus. He should go back to doing those, because this movie is awful – despite a fantastic cast.
This is a movie about what young people think old people are like. It has no actual experience. It displays no insight or compassion. It relies on remarks about medication, being unable to climb stairs, ignorance of pop culture, and how many times they have to get up in the night to use the bathroom rather than attempting to understand the characters’ lives, minds, and hearts.
There is one strong female character in this movie, and thank God she’s played by Mary Steenburgen. Every scene with her character, Diana, crackles with energy and joy. She is absolutely a delight, but she’s not in the movie enough to elevate it.
Lisa (Bre Blair) is just a sex trophy for Billy, until Paddy wakes him up and makes him see her as a person. The bridal party doesn’t even get character names and only exist to be drunk and easy prey for Sam. At least the cross-dressing Maurice (Roger Bart) gets a name! Miriam (Joanna Gleason), Sam’s wife, is the story’s Penelope, sending Sam off on his great adventure (with a condom and a Viagra) while waiting passively at home.
Somehow, Steenburgen makes Diana more than just a signpost for pointing out how to grow the fuck up. All the other women are just tools for the story, and that’s just sad. Aren’t we better than that yet?
Not only does the movie retread gags that Cocoon did better 30 years ago, but it lazily references the actors’ careers. Freeman and De Niro have both played gangsters, and there’s a scene where they pretend to be gangsters in order to reform a twenty-something douchebro. It’s just lazy. The clever bit is having Sam try to join in, and being bad at it – which is supposed to be funny because Kevin Kline doesn’t have a reputation for playing an effective gangster (see A Fish Called Wanda). Now, if De Niro was bad at it, then that could have been funny.
I use the word “psychotic” not because this movie is violent (Paddy throws a couple of punches, and both he and Billy get pushed into pools), but because it lacks compassion.
I expected, with this cast, to see a comparison between youth and age, and to see the movie explore the pros and cons of both. Instead I got a movie where the man-children were in their sixties instead of their thirties. This movie is Hall Pass or Old School with geezers, instead of being Tough Guys (which you should see).
Let me break this down a little further.
Billy is unhappy, and can’t figure out why.
Archie just had an “episode” and his kids are babying him, enforcing a bunch of medical restrictions on his diet and behavior.
Sam is unhappy in his marriage.
Paddy is lonely. The love of his life died recently, and he’s having trouble letting go and finding new connections.
The solution is blindingly obvious – they need each other. They’re each isolated in some way. Billy ignores his aging and so has no connection with people who understand him and his life. The recent death of his mentor triggers his engagement, but he’s too stupid to realize that his mentor was the only person his life his own age, and what he needs is similar companionship.
Archie lives with his kids. He surrenders his adulthood to them.
Sam retired to Florida with his wife. They did what they thought they were supposed to do instead of doing what was right for them. Now he’s miserable.
Paddy has a right to be mad at Billy, but mostly because their separation means that neither understands the other’s life.
Once they get together in Vegas, they start coming to life again – but without any direction or wisdom. Billy is focused on his upcoming marriage. Archie wants to gamble away (half) his pension, drink, dance, and eat food he’s not supposed to. Sam wants to get laid. Paddy just wants to get things over with so he can go back home and mourn in his little apartment.
Diana simultaneously wakes them up and draws them together, yet only Paddy is smart enough to recognize her value as a person, and initially he wants nothing to do with her because of his self-imposed exile.
The misogyny of the film rears its ugly head even as the movie introduces its best female character. Its misogyny because the film refuses to admit that the boys were always at their best when there was a woman guiding and inspiring them.
It’s also racist. It’s blindingly obvious from Morgan Freeman’s performance that Archie recognizes how wonderful Diana is as a person rather than as prey or a prize, but he’s not allowed to make a play for her. Nor is he allowed to dance with white women.
Paddy eventually reveals that he’s angry because when his wife died, Billy didn’t come to the funeral. They’d known the woman since they were kids together. Paddy and Billy both made plays for her. Yet, when she passes, Billy is too busy pretending to be young to re-connect with his grieving friend.
Archie’s son, Ezra (Michael Ealy, who deserves better roles), tracks Archie down and Archie tells him off. In doing so, Archie establishes his life as an independent adult – which he shouldn’t have needed to do.
Sam almost gets laid, but then realizes he won’t be able to tell his wife about it. He tells her everything. Really? It took 90 minutes to reach that realization? I do understand that sometimes we take the people in our lives for granted, but here it reads like just another example of how the movie has no respect or understanding for older people.
Thanks to Paddy, Billy finally realizes that he doesn’t love Lisa, but he’s starting to fall in love with Diana.
And yet, at the end, the movie reverses its course. It separates the main characters. Billy and Diana get engaged in California. Archie is playing with his granddaughter and still living with his kids – because in America, we can’t make movies that show happy, active, African-Americans with romantic and sexual lives as full as their white friends’. Paddy is dating one of his neighbors back in Brooklyn. We’re not sure where Sam is, but apparently the key to his happiness was a rotating circular bed and sex with his wife.
They were happy in Vegas because they had found community with each other. Then they threw it all away because the movie took a cheap, easy, out.
The saddest part of this waste of talent is that in three months it more than doubled its budget. Despite being 46% rotten on Rotten Tomatoes, and having a mediocre 48 Metacritic score, the money spoke and we’re getting a sequel.
Don’t see the sequel, either.