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May 23, 2014

Fear and loathing in the trailer for Last Vegas, on YouTube

Just now, I watched the trailer for Last Vegas, an uproarious comedy released in 2013 featuring four veritable Hollywood legends: Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Michael Douglas, and Kevin Kline. The respected work of each actor indubitably bled into the trailer for Last Vegas, such that one wonders whether or not they were tricked into making this film, and one becomes very sad about the idea of being an actor.

The foursome of aging actors unites for a two minute and 52 second preview that will leave you wondering what the full movie is like and ultimately questioning the meaning of life itself.

The action seems to precipitate from the announcement that Billy, portrayed by Michael Douglas, is getting married to a woman half his age (he clarifies that she is 32, putting Billy at 64). In order to properly celebrate the May–December nuptials, the quartet of raucous gentlemen decide to travel to Las Vegas for a no-holds-barred bachelor party.

Now, the obvious joke here is that bachelor parties, in all their debauched excess and lascivious wayfaring, are the occupation of young men. As you’ll infer from the previous paragraph, however, the four stars of this film are old. This ingenious take of the “frat pack” genre (think of modern hits like The Hangover, The Hangover II, and The Hangover III) strikes comedic gold by constantly reminding the audience that its characters are old and dying.

The laugh riot begins from the first minute of this three-minute joyride, when Morgan Freeman’s character (who goes unnamed in this preview) expresses some skepticism about his ability to let loose in Las Vegas. Freeman nervously states that he “can’t smoke, drink, eat salt, or stay out past nine,” and that Billy’s bride-to-be is younger than a certain hemorrhoid he possesses.

The laughs don’t stop there, however, as the movie continues to pit these geriatric stars against the ever-changing world in which they live. In one memorable snippet of this preview, a flustered hotel employee attempts to explain that a suite is being rented by rapper 50 Cent, to the absolute consternation of our four lovable heroes. Morgan Freeman thinks that 50 guests will be staying in the room, while Kevin Kline mistakenly identifies 50 Cent as a member of the Jackson 5.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this trailer for a movie, however, is the infusion of the past with the present. The crew repeatedly professes to “party like it’s 1959,” and moments of genuine friendship and/or fighting evoke echoes of the distant past, in which the fearsome foursome used to beat people up at bars and kiss lots of young women. The preview leaves this blurring of time unresolved to the viewer, but suggests that the cad-like behavior of these elderly men is reawakening their long-dormant capacity for fun and friendship.

The trailer for Last Vegas redefines the coming-of-age tale as we know it: These men lived life, learned what lessons it had to offer, and then chose to pursue a weekend of sodden sorrows in Las Vegas.  The final shot of the trailer shows Kline and Freeman complaining about their headache and lamenting that “everything is spinning,” only to have the camera pan out and reveal that the men are on a rotating bed. This last shot is surely demonstrative of the film’s ultimate message: that life is a terrible joke, and that even old age offers no real escape from the doubt and self-absorption that haunt our lives. Unable to find fulfillment in family, work, or faith, this fearless bunch of pranksters is left to spin madly onwards in an unseeing, unfeeling world. Rather than “coming of age,” then, this trailer portrays the “coming of aged men,” as in “A three-minute preview about the coming of aged men to Las Vegas.”

Or at least I think that’s what it means. The utterly baffling title of Last Vegas continues to confuse me, despite my noblest attempts to understand it. Is it the last time that the group will go to Last Vegas? Or is it something less horribly obvious and sad? There is just no way to know. This is a complicated trailer with complicated characters, some of whom never receive a name.

Of one thing, however, we can be certain: The trailer for Last Vegas is on YouTube, and it is two minutes and 52 seconds long.

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