Somewhere along the way, hiring older people in movies became some kind of excuse to either make them look burdensome or doing outrageous things in the name of comedy. I recently wrote a piece about the devolution of elderly actors in movies and how it went from the grace and class of Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn in “On Golden Pond” 33 years ago to “Bad Grandpa” today. Even if the latter is Johnny Knoxville in overly convincing prosthetic makeup, we’ve seen our share of real older actors and actresses having to portray the elderly as a comical liability than anything worthy.
We have at least the recent examples of “The Notebook” and “Amour” in the drama department. Now “Last Vegas” might join the fray in repairing the comedy with older actors. Whether you want to call that “Springing from the Cocoon”, it’s up to you.
Yes, it was Ron Howard who arguably made the last great comedy with older actors in his “Cocoon” over 28 years ago. It was after that when most films with octogenarian legends seemed to take a downturn, with a few exceptions. You could say “Last Vegas” is a revival of the “Cocoon” legacy, minus the seniors finding youth through an alien life force. Then again, Vegas has its own feeling of being alien from the rest of America.
At first glance, it looks like a true event having Robert De Niro working alongside Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline. It start to sound better when you consider De Niro has some practice in comedy, despite most of those comedies being well beneath him. What makes “Last Vegas” stand out is it delves into longstanding friendships and the issues that sometimes boil under the surface for decades without being said outwardly.
These actors aren’t here to just bumble around and bring back slapstick as far too many older actors had to endure in other movies. For most people, that’s important, because nobody wants to see Morgan Freeman taint his own movie career by appearing in lesser comedies. The good news here is that all of these A-list actors obviously read the script carefully and didn’t do it just for the money. Even better, all of them have other prestigious projects coming up, making “Last Vegas” like a Vegas stopover.
Whether this more quality comedy of 60 and 70-something A-listers influences other comedies with seniors is probably worth worrying about. We still have retired and elderly A-list actors out there who should be acting again before they die. And they have every right to play in a comedy that doesn’t make them look like a fool.
Perhaps the only way to get them all back into something quality is to go the “Last Vegas” route and consolidate everyone. When the same is being done in the aging action hero genre, it saves valuable time attempting to repair the things broken years ago.