A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Last Laugh is a comedy about an aging talent agent and an aging comic coping with retirement and feeling relegated to the indignities of old age. The agent resists being deposited in a home by a caring granddaughter, but once there meets a former client and, like two mischievous adolescents, they escape and hit the road to revive the comic's career. A man receives a terminal diagnosis. Adults smoke marijuana and ingest mushrooms. Crack and meth are mentioned in jokes. The language is salty, including "f--k," "s--t," "t-ts," and "d--k," and discussion of elderly sex is frank. But the focus is on the need for each of us, no matter how old, to feel useful and engaged in life. It's unlikely that teens will find this investigation into the march toward mortality of tremendous interest, but its messages might be useful nevertheless.
What's the story?
THE LAST LAUGH finds Al (Chevy Chase) retired and mourning his wife's death. He feels useless without work and has fallen a few times, worrying his granddaughter (Kate Micucci). He balks, but moves to a retirement community where he runs into a former client, Buddy (Richard Dreyfuss), a comic who was on the verge of breaking through into the big time. Instead he quit before a major gig, opting for a steady life as a successful podiatrist, husband, and father. Al presses him to go back on the road and achieve the show biz success he let slip away 50 years before. When Buddy's girlfriend dies, he and Al load up the car and hit the road, playing dicey night clubs in Kansas and Texas, with the lofty and unlikely goal of ending up on The Tonight Show in New York. Buddy smokes marijuana daily, but Al tosses his stash when he thinks he's being stopped by highway patrol, requiring Al to score some weed while Buddy is performing. Along the way, Al meets Doris (Andie Macdowell), a free-spirited artist, who joins them on their adventure. The Tonight Show doesn't happen, but after important revelations, and an assist from former client Max (Lewis Black), Al gets Buddy a satisfying and poignant gig.
Is it any good?
This movie, like the Netflix series The Kominsky Method, comically looks at the anguish of aging baby boomers as they lose loved ones and negotiate their increasing marginalization. It's not necessarily a subject even the most mature teens would appreciate. Unlike Kominsky, the script here is uneven and characters are underdeveloped. The Last Laugh's fundamental premise, that a retired agent could, in just a matter of hours, arrange gigs all over the country, certainly seems questionable, and a hallucinatory song-and-dance number feels awkward and out of place.
But Dreyfuss, who is 71 and playing an 80-year-old, is vivid and animated in the flashier, funnier role. Chase, at 74, plays a phlegmatic character, the story's straight man. His slapstick comedies of the past showcased his snark and physicality, but here his dramatic talents may not measure up to what the story requires. Still, the movie is likable and at times touching.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about societal attitudes toward older people. Do you think young people are sometimes dismissive of older people unfairly? Why? How are older people portrayed in The Last Laugh?
Older adults have lots of experience that younger people might benefit from. How do you think they could collaborate to make the world a better place?
Easy transportation has given modern Americans the opportunity to move from place to place more frequently, compared to families of the past who used to stay in one place, allowing relatives to live together or nearby and take care of each other in times of need, illness, and old age. Can you think of ways loved ones can take care of each other today?
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