You’ve seen a bad movie that had some good parts and a good movie that featured some oddly questionable moments, right? The Last Laugh is a real rarity as it manages to neatly split its best and worst moments. The good parts are enjoyable enough to make it worth enduring the weaker scenes, but the bad scenes are frequent enough that I wish Director/Writer Greg Pritikin reconsidered more of what made the final cut.
Al Hart (Chevy Chase) isn’t ready to retire from his longtime gig as a talent manager, but he’s stuck in the past. He’s not quite a relic as he knows enough buzz words to describe something as emo and proudly proclaims he’s hip. Al’s granddaughter, Jeannie (Kate Micucci, When in Rome), doesn’t want him to end up alone — where is the rest of the family anyway? — and encourages him to go to a senior community.
Despite his old friend and first client Buddy Green (Richard Dreyfuss) holding court at the community and welcoming him with open arms, Al is uneasy at the thought of settling down at a senior home. When Buddy reveals some regrets about abruptly ending his comedic career, Al seizes the opening to suggest his comeback story and natural charisma would make an ideal guest for The Tonight Show.
But to buff out some of Buddy’s rust, the duo starts small performing in off the regular circuit comedy clubs. Dreyfuss is amazing. He’s been in a ton of films, but I never viewed him as this great comedic talent. Dreyfuss is too good of an actor to suggest he steals the film, but his enthusiasm and character make such a winning combination The Last Laugh would have been a better film if it focused strictly on Buddy.
A lot of that has to do with Chase. He’s not going through the motions here, but his performance feels so stale and dry. Al should have a certain amount of charisma and energy even in his older state, but Chase is unable to connect with the character. It never seems like he gets lost in the role in the way that Dreyfuss does with Buddy.
I believed that Chase was a guy who’d managed to lose all of his friendships and have few people willing to deal with him. He’s far less credible as the lively, can do type willing to chase after a dream. That’s an essential focus of the film, which largely left me trying to think of every capable 65+ actor who could have done this role justice. And that was long before Andie MacDowell is introduced as Doris, a free-spirited love interest for Al.
Pritikin’s instincts are right with Doris helping to loosen Al up, it’s just that Chase can’t muster up a lick of chemistry with the dynamic MacDowell. There’s a 15-year age difference with the 75-year-old Chase, but it comes off like a much wider gap.
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Not all of the film’s flaws lie on Chase though. There’s one scene midway through where Al complains about Buddy’s suggestion to add some singing into his act as it makes no sense. That was good advice, but Pritikin ignores his own script and starts liberally adding random songs and a truly bizarre musical number. This is an homage to the acts Al and Buddy revered, but it felt tremendously out of place.
There’s a predictable twist near the end you’d catch if you paid attention earlier, but Pritikin pulls it off in a way to not come off as emotionally manipulative.
Overall, The Last Laugh is exactly the kind of original content that’s ideal for Netflix. It’s not quite strong enough to warrant a trip to the theaters, but decent enough to kill time on a slow weekend. The film has too many weak points to recommend immediately adding to your queue, but off the strength of Dreyfuss’ performance, I’d say it’s worth checking out.
Rating: 5.5 out of 10
Photo Credit: Netflix